As leaders, we need meetings. They help us disseminate information, share ideas, get buy-in and build relationships, make decisions and delegate. For many of my clients, meaningless meetings are one of their top frustrations. Meaningless meetings waste not only your precious time, but also that of your entire team. Some meetings are so poorly organized they just help leaders avoid making a choice.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many leaders and boards to improve the quality of their meetings. Here are some suggestions to help you have better meetings, engage deeply in issues and keep the energy focused where it belongs – on solving problems together.

1.  Read Death by Meeting.  This is my number one suggestion to executives, board chairs, and anyone else responsible for facilitating meetings. It’s the most useful, easy-to-read resource I know of. Many of my clients buy this powerful little book for their entire team, including their administrative assistant, if they have one. You can knock yourself out reading volumes of print and web resources that won’t get you there as fast as this little book will.

2. Learn how to facilitate.  If you want to keep people involved, create leadership opportunities in your organization and skills in your team, you need facilitator skills. The more you know about how to run a good meeting and shape dialog, the more your team will feel empowered about their own ideas and participation, stay invested in the outcome, take on responsibility and ownership, and the better your meetings will be. Facilitation…Why It’s Fundamental to Leadership is a wonderful overview to get you started or help refresh your skills.

3. Learn to listen dynamically. It takes A Special Type of Listening to encourage bold and courageous conversations.  When we as leaders listen in to the whole conversation – what is being said verbally and non-verbally, intellectually and emotionally – we help to create the level of trust and safe space for teams to challenge operating assumptions and sacred cows. From my perspective, this is a necessity for teams to think outside the box and for excellent solutions to emerge.

4. Rotate leadership.  I sort of said this in Tip #2, but it’s worth emphasizing. There is no logical reason why any leader needs to lead every meeting. If you have a leadership and/or governance team, there are plenty of leaders in the room, right? Give yourself a break and rotate meeting roles – facilitator, recorder, note taker and so on. When you rotate leadership, you encourage more accountability and a greater stake in getting things done.

5. Stay away from Power Point.  This may come as a shock to those who spend hours compiling ‘the deck’, but many experts agree that Power Point is the biggest meeting culprit around. The No. 1 Killer of Meetings has some great ideas on what to do instead.

6. Think strategy! One of my favorite quotes is by James Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape:

The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing.

The problem with most meetings is that we never get to the main thing – which in my mind is strategy. One of the best ways I know how to do this is to pose the strategic issue as a question.  This takes some practice and Shaping a Strategic Question is a great resource to get you started. When you ask the right questions, your team is better able to focus on the main thing.

Do you have a favorite technique or process for effective, leaderful meetings?  I’d love to hear from you and will share it in my next issue of Insights.


         Amanda Madorno

425.488.7747 (direct)

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