Four Steps to Meaningful Meetings

Raise your hand if you have ever attended a pointless meeting.

Everyone one of us has been in a meeting where the most excitement was the notification light on our phone lighting up! You know it’s true. Even if the message was a reminder to pick up milk on the way home, it was still more meaningful than whatever it was that the person leading the meeting was talking about. Sigh.

Now, raise your hand if you have ever led a pointless meeting. Ouch! That is a tough question, isn’t it? But be honest – have you ever led a meeting that had no real purpose?

Even though you and I don’t feel good about it (at the time, and afterward), we’ve all, unfortunately, been responsible for leading a meeting or two that had no purpose.

So how do we change that? As leaders, how do we change meeting time into valuable time?

If you want to be an effective leader, consider these four steps:

  1. First, do you know the purpose of the meeting? If you, as the leader, don’t know the point of the meeting, I can almost guarantee no one else will either! And I’m not talking about the purpose of meetings in general; I am referring to the specific purpose for the particular meeting that you are going to lead. If you don’t know the specific purpose, don’t have the meeting. I have been known to cancel a regularly scheduled staff meeting when it is clear there will not be anything meaningful to talk about. And I’ve been thanked for doing so! Pointless meetings will waste your time and everyone else’s.
  2. Second, once you know the specific purpose of the meeting, be sure to communicate the purpose to everyone who will attend the meeting. As the leader, it is your responsibility to define and communicate expectations for every meeting that you call. Communicate in person (and possibly in writing) before the meeting, and say it again at the beginning of the meeting. “We are having this meeting this morning, so that we [fill in the blank]”.
  3. Third, create and distribute a meaningful agenda a few days prior to the meeting. This is related to expectations but is more specific and tangible. By providing a list of specific topics for discussion, decisions that have to be made, etc, you are communicating not only your goals for the meeting, but also that you and the team will hold each other accountable for the outcomes. Did you actually complete the items on the agenda? If not, put them on the agenda for the next meeting.
  4. Fourth, follow-up. If there is no follow-up after the meeting, there will be no action after the meeting. Your staff knows this, and they will figure out your leadership patterns very quickly. Lead by example and hold yourself accountable by reporting on your action items at the next meeting. Holding yourself accountable gives you the credibility to hold others accountable.

Four simple and effective principles to infuse life into your team meetings. The people you lead appreciate communication, clarity, and purpose, and effective meetings are a great tool to help you lead well.

Now, before you forget, look at the very next meeting that you are scheduled to lead and work through these four steps! 🙂

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