Take these proactive steps to ensure more productive use of everyone’s time.
I work with many organizations, and a common complaint from leaders is that they have to attend too many meetings. They often say that they can’t get their real work done because there is no space in the day to actually think and execute. But what if you could make your meetings much more effective and productive while also reducing the number of unnecessary and ineffective meetings? There is a way!
Regular meetings (whether in person or by conference call) can be very effective for reinforcing goals, keeping employees on track, asking questions and removing obstacles. They’re also a great opportunity to coach your team. In my experience, leaders who don't have a regular forum to discuss the progress of goals quickly lose track of what their team is doing. Employees can become disconnected, overwhelmed and confused.
However, not all meetings are useful, and poor planning, poor facilitation and lack of follow-up cause most meetings to be a waste of time. To make the most of meetings, you need to have clarity around what you want to accomplish.
One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to create clarity. Your job is to communicate the larger purpose and goals of the organization in a way that clearly connects your team to that vision. Clarity allows people to take action.
You can create clarity in many ways—through individual meetings, coaching sessions, group meetings or daily huddles. These meetings don’t need to be long. In fact, sometimes keeping them to a specific length forces people to be prepared and succinct. When facilitated effectively, meetings can be much more productive—and eliminate the need for redundant and unnecessary follow-up meetings.
In a previous column, I shared a formula for successful meetings:
Clarity + Purpose + Accountability = Results
A meeting will be much more efficient and effective if you have clarity around what you want to accomplish and who should be there. Every meeting needs a clear purpose or goal.
There also needs to be accountability for action items. If you spend the meeting talking about ideas but leave without assigning tasks or due dates, the meeting was a waste of time.
With these factors in mind, you can set up your meeting to be purposeful and successful in as few as five minutes. I call this the Five Minutes to Clarity method.
Preparing for the meeting:
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- What is the goal or outcome of this particular meeting?
- Do you really need a meeting to accomplish the goal? Could the goal be accomplished a different way?
- Who needs to be involved? Who can be simply be informed after the fact?
- What are the key decisions that need to be made?
Create an agenda and communicate the specifics about the meeting to participants.
At the start of the meeting:
- State the goal or outcome of the meeting. (Write it on a white board or printed agenda.)
- Identify the key decisions that need to be made.
Take five minutes at the end of the meeting to convert discussions into action. Recap any decisions or actions items.
- What are the key takeaways (decisions made, etc.)?
- Who is responsible?
- What is the deadline?
- What do we need to communicate to others?
- With whom do we need to communicate, and by when?
By taking just five minutes to put some thought and preparation into the meeting using the framework above, you can drastically cut down on unnecessary meetings and make the time you do spend in meetings much more productive.
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or firstname.lastname@example.org.