Ace Good Meeting Leadership By Planning Ahead

Most successful women are proactive when leading meetings—after all, they’re often the best way for us to share information, organize project details and motivate our teams.

So why do most of our employees dread them?

Most of the time, it’s because they’ve lived through too many poorly planned and pointless meetings. They’ve suffered through sit-downs that wandered aimlessly off-course, and killed too many hours (and brain cells) while accomplishing very little. Sometimes, employees aren’t even given a clear purpose for a meeting, other than a notification that says, “Group meeting, 10 a.m., conference room. We need to discuss X-Y-Z.”

Without a specific end-game, employees feel doomed to sit and wonder, “Where’s this all going? And for how long?”

But with some planning, a clear agenda and an outline of what you aim to accomplish, employees might actually look forward to meetings.

Preparation Counts

Letting your team know up front what you need from the meeting makes a big difference. When you send a meeting invite, specify the meeting subject, agenda and goals. Kick the meeting off by clearly laying out why you’re there.

Heather Yamada-Hosely, a writer and business contributor, suggests defining your meeting as a certain “type” before you start. Besides getting everyone the same page, sticking to the meeting type makes sure the conversation stays on track, and reassures your invitees that they won’t be trapped for hours. Three major meeting types are:

Decision Making: You want the group to decide on a certain idea or action by the end of the meeting; for example, whether to expand staff, accept a proposal or establish a new process.

Information Sharing: You want the host and/or attendees to share new or key information with each other; for example, a project status update, scheduled events for the next week, or common problems that need to be resolved.

Brainstorming: You want attendees to put their heads together to come up with a list of ideas or solutions; for example, ways to approach a new topic or business area, potential solutions to a problem, or new areas to take business.

Avoid These Meetings At All Costs

To really step up your meeting leadership, eliminate the following meetings entirely. (Hint: no one will openly suggest trashing these meetings because they’re probably too polite, but they’ll secretly thank you!)

  1. 8:00 a.m. Staff Meetings

These meetings are usually called because we women managers are so busy this is the only free time we have. Problem is, no one’s ever ready for it! After all, it’s 8 a.m. Some people barely sit down at their desks and read emails this early. Monday 8 a.m.-ers are even worse; you’re not giving anyone real time to prepare. Tip: Stick to these early meetings only if you have a consensus that they really do work for everyone’s schedule.

  1. Round-the-Table “Updates”

These meetings hardly ever accomplish anything other than reminding everyone about the work they haven’t finished yet. They’re usually set up by managers trying to reassure everyone that they’re on top of whatever project they’re heading up. Tip: Avoid rehashing old info buy asking those involved to focus only on urgent news that impacts everyone or to identify problems that require help from others.

  1. Recurring Meetings

Otherwise known as “sticky-note” meetings, these are usually placed on the calendar to let the bosses know what they’ve been up to. Only meet if you’ve got actual changes or updates to really discuss. There’s no need to keep every person involved in a company-wide project inundated with details on aspects that don’t concern them. Tip: Review recurring meetings to see if they’re really necessary. Even if you didn’t call the meetings, follow up with who set them up and (diplomatically) ask if a meeting is REALLY needed every single week/month.

  1. Open-Ended “Group Think” Meetings

This is any meeting where you pull together a group of people to brainstorm ideas: a vision, a mission, a strategy statement, a scope statement in project management, etc. While this type of meeting is common, you still need to stick to a few concrete goals from the outset; otherwise, your group’s ideas could be all over the place rather than targeted to what you’re looking for. Tip: Don’t start from the ground up. Come equipped with at least a few of your own ideas everyone can bounce off, then ask for input.

With just a little bit of planning, you can get more effective results out of your meetings–and more enthusiasm from your employees.