It’s been a while since I posted a new Right Words to Say video, but I’m back with a few new answers to questions sent in by members of the Change Your Team Community. In this post, I answer a question that will be of use to anyone who ever has to chair a meeting. The question is: how do I start a meeting in a way that will make it the most valuable? Here’s my answer:
- Make the purpose of the meeting clear. You’d be amazed how much time gets invested in meetings where no one really knows why the meeting is happening (ok, maybe you wouldn’t be amazed). State the purpose of the meeting in the agenda and reiterate it at the start of the meeting. While you’re at it, talk about what the meeting IS NOT about. “This is our weekly operations meeting. We’re focusing on issues that have a yellow or red light status. Anything with a green light status needs to be held for our monthly review meetings.”
- Be specific about the purpose of agenda items. If something is for information, say so and facilitate the discussion appropriately. Don’t get into debates and don’t go over the time limit. If something is for decision, be clear on the decision criteria and specify whether everyone gets to vote or whether you’re looking for recommendations and then one person will decide.
- Ask people to filter their contributions and focus on points that add value. Don’t waste time in violent agreement with one another. “I’m looking for different perspectives and new ways of thinking. If you agree with what’s been said, don’t spend time saying the same thing over again.”
- Reiterate any important ground rules. If your team has spent time developing ground rules (which I really recommend that you do), then remind everyone about the most important ones at the start of the meeting. “Just a reminder that we’ve all committed to starting with a positive assumption and having conflict productively.”
- Head off passive aggressive behavior by asking that issues are addressed in the meeting, not after it. It’s not a fail safe approach, but calling out difficult or contentious discussions at the start of a meeting and asking for people to share their points of view candidly will increase the likelihood that you get the issues on the table rather than leaving them for hallway gossip later.
It’s not necessarily that you have to attend too many meetings; just that you have to attend too many bad meetings. Get your meetings focused on the unique value you’re supposed to be adding, emphasize diversity of thought and filter out time wasted on agreeing with each other and you’ll find that meetings are shorter and better.
Do you have questions about how to contribute to a high performing team, don’t be shy. Use the comments section or the contact box to send them in.