As a first-time manager, you have a unique opportunity to develop, display, and propagate effective meeting habits with your team. Seize the opportunity and get this right from the start. Not only will your team members appreciate your efforts, but with a bit of good fortune, they will adopt these same positive habits when it’s their turn to manage.
After a long career filled with few memorable meetings, and a sharp pain in my gut when I think about the many miserable events I was forced to sit through, I am a bit of a zealot on getting these things right. You should be as well. Time is, of course, our one irreplaceable asset, and your respect for the time of your colleagues will be noted and appreciated.
Here are some ideas that will help you on your path to taming the meeting beast and cultivating effective meeting habits.
12 Ideas to Help You Build Better Meetings:
1. Respect Monday Mornings!
Set the right tone for the week by not meeting first thing! The single worst idea you might have is to schedule an early Monday morning meeting with your team. Just don’t do it. No one knows what’s going on yet. Last week is far away in the rear-view mirror, and it takes time for everyone to find their bearings in the new week. If you must connect on Monday, place the session later in the afternoon.
2. Don’t Make the Meetings About You
Do not set up meetings as a primary means of educating you on what’s going on with your team. Instead, connect one-on-one and save everyone the painful group manager education session.
3. No Meeting Shall Be Held Without a Clear Purpose
Share relevant corporate news. Discuss overall team and firm performance indicators. Provide context for strategy. Frame a challenging situation that you are asking the team to solve. No matter what, make certain there’s a purpose behind this time-consuming and expensive group gathering. No purpose, no meeting.
4. Stand and Deliver. Seriously!
If you must conduct status updates, take a page from the world of Agile/Scrum project management and facilitate a brief stand-up session where individuals have two minutes to indicate their progress on their key priorities as well as indicate any potential challenges or obstacles. And yes, stand.
5. No One Cares What Everyone Else is Doing!
People care a little, but no one loves the meeting format where the sole purpose is for everyone to share everything they’ve been doing. (I call this the “Round-the-Table Meeting Death March.”) These are painful sessions, that may induce nausea based on some of the puffy, self-serving updates.
6. Does it Pass the So-What Test?
If you run regular operations or activity reviews, create a common template for your team members to use when developing their updates. Everything on the agenda must pass the “so what?” test.
7. Share the Spotlight!
For the limited number of recurring meetings you conduct, rotate agenda ownership and meeting management.
8. Reinforce Accountability.
For every problem identified by someone, an action must be identified, an owner assigned, and a follow-on date established. Take notes and hold people accountable to their commitments. You’ll be amazed at how modeling your demand for accountability stimulates accountability across the group.
9. It’s Tempting, But Don’t Do It!
Skip the public inquisition or execution if a team member falls short on a commitment. Do indicate publicly that you would like to talk with him/her offline and that they should set up an appointment. Everyone else in the room understands what you are doing, and they appreciate you for not embarrassing anyone in the live setting.
10. Location, Location, Location.
Change venues when you can. Just a change of scenery can boost the energy of the team for a recurring meeting.
Speaking of recurring meetings… . Minimize these things. Too many and they clog our calendars and choke off our productive work time.
11. There’s Nothing Magical About Hour-Long Meetings.
My favorite meetings last no longer than twenty minutes. People may linger to network, connect on a problem or opportunity or socialize a bit, but don’t feel compelled to fill the rest of the hour.
12. Creativity isn’t a switch.
If your meeting is about idea-generation, don’t expect people to be creative-on-demand. Distribute the topic/brainstorm questions ahead of the meeting and encourage people to draft and submit ideas anonymously. Write out the ideas on a whiteboard and use those to jump and build.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
In my experience, most of our meeting habits are bad. You, however, are early and impressionable in your management career. Break the back of bad meetings. Create meetings that people want to attend. Use the group settings to accomplish something and remember that no one has time to waste. Do all of this, and the world will be a slightly better place, and you will be showcasing why you are a dramatically better manager than many of the rest. Everyone will appreciate your hard work to develop and deliver effective meetings.