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Dear David: Making the most of your management meetings

September 5, 2016; Volume 31, Number 6

By David Romano

Dear David:

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.15.31 PMI find whenever I hold a management meeting, nothing seems to get accomplished. Everyone seems to have their own agenda and we never get to everything. Do you have any advice on how to hold a productive management meeting?

Dear Distracted Meeting Leader,

The purpose of a management meeting is to inform managers, exchange information and collaborate to reach business goals. Properly run meetings save time, increase motivation, productivity and solve problems. I recommend following this simple strategy in holding an effective management meeting.

  1. Make your objective clear. A meeting must have a specific and defined purpose. Before you send that calendar invite, ask yourself: What do I want to accomplish? Are you alerting people to a change in management or a shift in strategy? Standing meetings with vague purposes, such as “status updates,” are rarely a good use of time.
  2. Spend twice as much time on the agenda as you normally would. One problem commonly afflicting meetings is unclear objectives. If you’re not exactly sure what you’re trying to accomplish, you can be sure it won’t happen quickly.
  3. Consider who is invited. When you’re calling a meeting, take time to think about who really needs to be there. If you’re announcing a change, invite the people who are affected by the announcement. If you’re trying to solve a problem, invite the people who will be good sources of information for a solution. When people feel what’s being discussed isn’t relevant to them, or they lack the skills or expertise to be of assistance, they’ll view their attendance at the meeting as a waste of time.
  4. Schedule the meeting for half the time you originally intended to. Meetings are like accordions—they stretch naturally to fill the allotted space.
  5. Stick to your schedule. Create an agenda that lays out everything you plan to cover in the meeting, along with a timeline that allots a certain number of minutes to each item, and email it to people in advance. Once you’re in the meeting, put that agenda up on a screen or whiteboard for others to see. This keeps people focused throughout the meeting.
  6. Allow everyone to provide input. Nothing derails a meeting faster than one person talking more than his fair share. If you notice one person monopolizing the conversation, call him out. Say, “We appreciate your contributions, but now we need input from others before making a decision.”
  7. Ban technology. The reality is that if people are allowed to bring iPads, MacBooks, or PCs into the room, they won’t be focusing on the meeting or contributing to it. Instead, they’ll be emailing or surfing the web. If you allow technology, you will find yourself continually saying, “Eyes up here, please.”
  8. Wrap up meetings with a clear statement of the next steps and who is to take them. Document the responsibilities given, tasks delegated and any assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page.

When meetings are done right they are a lot of fun for your team. Your team should feel a sense of camaraderie and with the completion of their tasks they will experience that ever so important sense of accomplishment.