Managing Meetings

May 17, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

A meeting can be purposeful or pointless, wonderful or wasteful, magical or maddening – so, what type of meeting do you manage? And how might you be able to do it more meaningfully?

Meetings are the good, the bad and the ugly of the office. They consume our calendars, but they are inevitable and (most of the time) critical to a team’s success. Now, just because they’re necessary, by no means means they should be improperly planned or taken lightly. Meetings can transform visions, accelerate results, and build strong team bonds. But, they only have such potential when they are taken seriously and structured appropriately.

When you’re a manager or leader, it’s your job to make sure a meeting makes the most of your team’s time. All too often, meetings are purposeless, which is why employees find it counter-productive and pointless to waste time away from their real work. So, respect your reports enough to add a meeting to their calendar that adds value to their day. Ask yourself these questions to master meeting planning.

1. Who really needs to be invited?

Most managers send a blanket invite to all of their employees with an email address. In other words, they aren’t strategic or thoughtful about who they invite – they always bank on the belief that “more is better.” But, it’s not always better. If team members won’t be needed or aren’t involved in a particular project, respect their time and leave them off the invite. Think about who will add value and who has stake in the meeting’s purpose – and invite these individuals.

Another good rule of thumb is to explicitly state your reasoning in the invite itself. So, when you send the meeting invite, provide an explanation of why those who are invited – are invited. And outline any participation expectations. If you want others to be prepared to present or participate, make sure you let them know what you want to see and hear from them in the meeting.

2. How long does it really need to be?

In some ways, it makes sense to schedule the meeting longer than needed, just in case people run late, unexpected topics emerge or unpredictable matters make it to the table. But, on the other hand, always scheduling an unnecessarily long meeting has its pitfalls. For one, if it becomes habit to put extra time on everyone’s schedule, just in case something comes up – people will start to run late and use the meeting for unrelated matters. How you schedule the meeting communicates something about what you expect of the meeting. So, set the bar right, and be intentional about how you plan to use the time. Expect prompt arrival, maintain focus during the meeting to ensure productivity, and plan for follow-up meetings when and if other priorities arise.

3. Where should it take place?

Settings are often underestimated in importance. Where a meeting is held either helps or hinders the meeting’s progress and productivity levels. So, pay attention to an environment’s distractions. Surroundings subtly influence employees’ energy and comfort levels. Too hot? Too cold? Too many windows? Enough chairs? Unnecessary or needed refreshments? What types of media would make the meeting more/less of its vision? Pay attention to what will catch the attention of the meeting’s attendees.

4. How often do we really need to meet?

There are two ways to schedule meetings – impromptu or ongoing. Some managers choose to put a regular meeting on the calendar, so that every week, there is a designated time set aside. Others choose to schedule meetings more spontaneously, as needs emerge. Either style can work – as long as there’s a motive to your methodology. Whatever that reason, communicate it to your team, so that they know why you are operating as you are. And always be open to adjusting your scheduling approach if you notice it isn’t working for the team.

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Rick Conlow is CEO with WCW Partners, a management consulting and training firm. Rick has helped organizations increase sales 218%, improve repeat and referral business by 20%, increase customer retention to 99%, reduce complaints by 60% and achieve 34 quality awards. You can reach Rick at: rick@wcwpartners.com or 888-313-0514.

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