Here are the most important take aways we got from our discussion:
- Have a purpose for each meeting, know what type of meeting it is (tactical vs strategic for example), and plan accordingly
- Define group norms at the outset, especially if some people don’t know each other or it is a “first” meeting
- Set an intention at the beginning of each meeting (this is like an agenda, but it also can include things like tone, ground rules, and what we want people to get out of the time together)
- Leave Distractions at the Door
- Have an opening routine that gets people focused on the purpose of the meeting (like a quick round robin)
- Intentionally create positive drama or emotion to keep people engaged
- Issues that you repeatedly observe in your meetings could be symptoms of larger issues in the organization
- Keep in mind that meetings are tools we use to to coordinate the energy of the team around a mutual purpose
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Here are some of my favorite best practices around meetings:
- Don’t assume a 1-1 has to last an hour. The “default” time allotted for a meeting used to be an hour, and people would fill it. Now, most calendar programs default to the 30 minute time slot. Unless it is a mentoring meeting, or another situation where personal connection is important, you can easily fit most conversations into 20 minutes, leaving a 10 minute buffer to handle interruptions, coffee and bathroom breaks. Then be on time to your next one.
- Wrap up Action Commitments. Assume that there will be missed communication in every conversation. Spending 5-10 minutes at the end of a meeting for people to clarify their action commitments saves hours of figuring out what went wrong later.
- Use Social Media Tools. The main reason we have meetings is to keep up on what others are doing that relates to our work. If people “tweet” or post once per hour on a platform the whole team uses, you will eliminate a good number of meetings that exist just to catch everyone up. Even a private facebook or linked in page will work if you don’t already have internal tools.
- Take a Facilitation Class. If you are a manager or leader, a good portion of your job involves managing meetings. Facilitation classes will teach you how to rein in meeting “hijackers,” open up your quieter team members, and stick to your time-line.
- Schedule Single Topic Deep Dive Meetings. When meetings run over, it’s often because someone brought up an unresolved issue and a discussion began to resolve it. However, it’s more effective to schedule a special “discussion” meeting for later, even that afternoon, to allow the time you need to dive in and make good decisions, with all the right people there. That way everyone in the current meeting can get what they came for and get back to work, while the issue is given the attention it deserves.
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