We can probably all agree that we spend too much time in meetings. While these gatherings are a necessary part of the modern workplace, leaders can make them less painful and more productive for participants. In his book, Principles: Life and Work, Ray Dalio outlines nine ways to improve your meetings. Here are a few suggestions that resonated with me.
Rules on Interruption
In any group, there will be talkers, and there will be listeners. There will also be employees who are experienced, and those who are just learning the ropes. If you want to hear from the people who don’t usually speak up, consider setting limits on interruption. Dalio suggests a two-minute rule. In his meetings, individuals are free to speak for two minutes before others can jump in with their opinions. If you notice folks who appear eager to participate, feel free to set your own no-interruption time limit for the meeting, and encourage them to speak up.
Controlling the Motor Mouths
Some people come to meetings with their own agendas. They may want funding for pet projects, approval to change long established policies, or a deal for a preferred vendor. Whatever the topic, these employees usually turn on the charm and try to talk everyone into accepting their point of view. Dalio calls them fast talkers. These folks are often effective in silencing other team members who don’t understand the issue and may be “worried about appearing stupid.” Don’t let this happen in your meetings. One effective way to shut down motor mouths is to slow your own speaking pace. Then, ask the fast talkers to explain their ideas, in detail. Keep asking questions until you’re sure you and everyone else understands the issue.
One reason people object to meetings is because leaders don’t follow up on the decisions that were made when everyone was gathered. Near the end of the meeting, especially if lunch time is approaching, team members are already mentally out the door. Plan ahead for this reality. Leave enough time at the end of the meeting to summarize what has been accomplished. Beyond that, send out email assignments to team members who agreed to take action. Be sure to follow up with everyone to be sure they've completed their tasks.
If you're looking for more ways to make meetings more effective, read the rest of Dalio's suggestions.