How to Run a Better Meeting

BY Kathy Crosett
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Whether you’ve just started running meetings or you’ve been at the head of the table for decades, it
might be time to assess your style. Meetings can drag on for hours with nothing getting accomplished or they can be short and sweet with all participants agreeing that they understand what to do next. As you think about how to manage meetings in your department or company, consider a few tips offered by Josh Leibner in a recent Entrepreneur post.

Managing the Agenda

As a manager it’s all too easy to fall into the regular meeting trap. Maybe your predecessor held a weekly department meeting at 2:00 on Wednesdays and you've continued the practice. Or you might be accustomed to gathering everyone for 2 hours on Tuesday mornings. The chitchat at regularly scheduled meetings has a way of filling the time available. Before you know it, 6 folks have spent 2 hours, a total of 12 work hours, accomplishing very little.

It’s fine to reserve a time slot for a weekly meeting but if you don’t have anything pressing to discuss, cancel that meeting. If you have issues you want to talk about, send around an agenda with specific items to be discussed. While you’re at it, think about exactly who should be invited to the meeting. If the agenda is all about a challenge a specific team member or two is facing, limit the participants to those directly involved.

Another part of agenda setting centers on time management. In a perfect world, you’d be able to assign a set time period to an agenda item and move through the meeting efficiently. In reality, some agenda items are messy and your team members may have strong opinions on the causes of and solutions for a problem. Don’t shortcut these discussions. Come to a resolution in the meeting. If that means other agenda items are postponed for the future, so be it. The point is to be efficient and finish addressing a problem once you’ve started the discussion.

Being Direct

If you want your meetings to be meaningful and successful, give your employees a reason to participate and pay attention. Leibner points out that too many leaders don’t play it straight with their employees. If this is your style, over time, your employees learn that your meetings are a joke.

Meetings are often a forum for people to bring up uncomfortable issues, to probe, or to ask questions that can’t be easily answered. They might want to know what management is going to do now that the chief rainmaker has left for the competition or they might want to know how the execs in the C‑suite are going to fix the failing product. Often, what they are really asking about centers on their own job security.

Don’t be afraid to address these issues head on and give answers that are as truthful as possible. Averting your eyes and lying does nothing to garner respect or loyalty.  Meetings can be uncomfortable venues for these types of discussions but as the manager, it is your job to steer the conversation and support your team.

Check out the other tips Leibner offers and think about whether you need to change your approach. Running better meetings leads to better outcomes and improved respect from your team.