Unfortunately, many of the basic meeting-management techniques that leaders use fail to result in effective meetings. Even with an agenda, and strong task leadership, there is one huge problem that gets in the way: people! If there were robots in the meeting, well then it might all work smoothly. But people don’t act like leaders want them to in meetings. Distractions, group think, lack of comfort with conflict, overly quiet people, overly talkative people, and other things that are human nature get in the way of having a good meeting.
Here are 5 techniques to use that tap into people’s best side. They get team members to behave opposite of how they usually behave in meetings, by the leader doing the opposite of what they have been trained to do. They will produce extraordinary results. How do I know? I have used and seen all of them work magic over and over again
It is not a good meeting unless there is a little pain. Leaders make the mistake of trying to make meetings run smoothly. The magic of meetings is in the difficult conversations – the challenging opinions, the clash of ideas, the topics no one wants to discuss. Look at Mark Zuckerberg. He gets this. In all employee meetings at Facebook he has everyone submit questions. He gets very hard questions about his investment decisions and management approach. He doesn’t avoid it. He focuses on those. So instead of avoiding the pain, head straight for it. Ask for, listen to, bring up and discuss the hard questions – this is where the gold is.
Take 7 minutes in Heaven. Those of you old enough to remember the game, know that being put in a dark closet with someone of the opposite sex for 7 minutes could be 7 minutes of pure heaven or 7 minutes of tortuous hell. Leaders should leverage this same idea – not the making out part – but forcing people together to connect for 7 minutes. Have a daily “meeting” – no more than 7 minutes – with key people. Not an email, but a call or a face to face drop in. To make these meetings heaven and not torture, don’t force it. Just connect. Ask “What’s going on? How are things?” You might talk about a pressing project concern or what happened over the weekend. It doesn’t matter. These 7 minutes can be like a slice of heaven among a busy day. The point is to stay connected with issues and people. Part of what makes meetings a waste of time and impossible to mine the gold is that people are not connected. There is no true connection to build on. With these 7-minute mini-meetings during the week, you will hit pay dirt when you do call a meeting.
Stop leading and start listening. The best ideas are often buried in the quietest person in the room. Leaders often don’t look there. I have seen many teams fall into this trap. I have seen leaders let the team run wild with complaints in meetings, leaving no space for solutions. I have seen teams discuss 8 topics in 8 minutes, with no decision and no action plan. When running a meeting your job is to create results not fill the air time – tell the loud mouths to settle down, ask the quiet people for their thoughts, ask the team for solutions.
Don’t address everything. Your day is booked with meetings and you have the feeling that there is too much to do and not enough time. This often results in meetings that run from one topic to another, in an attempt to cover everything. When you are talking about project A, someone brings up an internal process issue, then someone brings up a person who is problematic, then you go into a strategic issue, and on and on. This will leave your feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything. So instead of trying to accomplish everything, separate catch-up, project, and strategy meetings into their own meetings. When you get off track, stop the action and say “This is a good topic for the xx meeting.” You mean more meetings? No. Making the meetings you are in be more productive. Keep on track and push off distractions to where they belong. Second, remember that the real meeting happens before the meeting – agenda preparation, briefing attendees, providing information for discussion – this must happen for the chance of yielding any gold.
End with a huddle. Most sports teams start with a huddle: getting psyched up or reviewing the strategy one more time. Meetings are the opposite. End it with the huddle. End with a brief “how did we do?” “Did we meet our meeting objectives.” “Did we share the floor and give everyone their space?” “Were decisions made in the appropriate time, or did we dilly-dally and avoid decisions?” “Do we have clear commitments and action items?”
Which do you use? Which would you like to try? Choose any one and I guarantee your meetings will be extremely engaging and productive.