7 Ways To Lead Meetings Your Team Will Love

We’ve all been there.

The meetings that run on endlessly, while verbose colleagues hold center stage and spout forth about the entire contents of their dairy or update everyone on the minutiae of their latest project.

And the person leading the meeting does little about it.

Meetings and emails, and how to manage them effectively, are two of the most common requests I get in coaching sessions. Huge amounts of time are wasted on either of them.

So, as a new leader (or an established one come to that – it’s never too late to change), it pays to get some good habits embedded in your practice of running meetings. This means you’ll stand a fighting chance of your team actually wanting to be there – and you’ll build their confidence in knowing they’ll be heard, not buried among the detritus of other people’s desperation to overshare.

Which brings me to my pre-list point. How many opportunities does your team have to be really heard? If the team meeting is the only place people feel they have a  voice, it’s little wonder they’re so keen to use it…

Running a meeting so that your team wants to be there

This really is the only way to run one – otherwise you’re wasting your time, effort and resources. We’re assuming you’re running the meeting (and by following these steps  you can help others lead in the same way) and you have an agenda.

1. At the outset, frame the meeting in terms of time. State the start time, and really importantly, state the finish time of the meeting. ‘It’s 1.30 now, and we’ll be on our way by 3.00pm folks,’ or something to that effect.

2. Give people permission to leave. I worked for a head teacher who did this. Once we hit 5:00 pm, if we needed to leave, we were able to quietly get up and go. This had several effects. It meant people got the point quickly; no one wanted to risk their contribution to be in a part of the meeting that had overrun and which may have meant absent staff. It also quelled anxiety. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a meeting knowing you have to be somewhere else, watching the clock ticking and mentally willing the person speaking to be quiet. As a single mum at the time, I knew I could pay full attention in the meetings, and still get to the child-minders on time without being frowned upon.

3. Have something to do directly afterwards. This gives people a reason to be succinct and encourages great time-keeping. Maybe it’s the end of the day and you (and others) have a train to catch? Or perhaps you have another appointment following on from your meeting. Let people know that you need to end promptly.

4. Use summarizing statements and questions to pull team members back to the main points. This is very useful if some people have a tendency to wax-lyrical. Find an opportunity to politely interrupt and sum up the main points of their arguments, encouraging others to move the discussion on;  ‘So Sally, you’re concerned about attendance figures at the next event and want to find ways to boost them? Ok – suggestions anyone please?’.

5. Break rapport with the speaker. Something as simple as glancing at your watch, or the clock, can signal  that it’s time to wrap up what the speaker is saying. Do this sparingly as your aim is to help everyone feel listened to; however, a room full of glazed over faces isn’t going to do much for anyone’s esteem either! In the same way, making leaving signals towards the end of the meeting will let everyone know that things are winding down, and bring an end to any ‘filler’ conversations that may be idling the meeting to a close.

6. Make sure your agenda is appropriate in length – if you struggle to get to the end of the meeting it might be because there’s just too much to cover. Be ruthless – use meetings only for agenda items that have to be covered with everyone. Don’t be afraid to use the phrase ‘It’s time to move on now…’. Ensure action points are always noted – who is going to do what, with whom, and by when, once the meeting has finished?

7. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak. In Time to Think, Nancy Kline talks about running a meeting as a Thinking Environment.  Part of this is allowing everyone a short turn to speak at the beginning, without interruption:

‘Giving everyone a turn increases the intelligence of the groups. Knowing they won’t be interrupted frees people to think faster and say less.’

So – over to you. How do you manage your meetings so that everyone wants to be there, you make the most of your team’s talents and everyone leaves feeling heard?

I’m Susan Ritchie and I specialize in helping new and aspiring female leaders to develop their confidence, skills and talents so they can have more impact, presence and influence in the workplace. If you have your eyes on the prize of a new role or promotion, this free e-book can help 10 Steps to Instant Influence

Susan Ritchie

Susan Ritchie is a leadership coach who specialises in working with new and aspiring female leaders, helping them develop their leadership presence, so they can lead with confidence, create the right impact and excel in their role. She’s the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant: 21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful.
She can be found at www.susanritchie.co.uk where you can download 5 Steps To Developing Your Leadership Presence – and why not come and say hello on twitter @susanjritchie.

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