Career Mastery™ Tip

How to Make Every Meeting Useful

Idea

Most of us spend a significant chunk of the day in meetings. The problem is that most meetings are inefficient, ineffective or both.

  • Ineffective meetings are the worst kind because you don’t get to an outcome at all, and it’s been a total waste of time for everyone
  • Inefficient meetings are a bit better since you do get to the right conclusion, but through a circuitous route
  • And the ones that take forever to get nowhere are the worst

What if you could become known for being a time saver? For being someone who is effective in meetings whether you’re in charge of running it or not?

Example

I was hosting a meeting with eight people in a conference room plus another 12 dialing in by conference call. It was on a complicated and contentious client issue that I thought was mostly the purview of my colleagues from the client team, who were included on the call.

Although I hadn’t seen it as my responsibility, I nonetheless had agreed to take the initiative to arrange the session (naively, in retrospect). After dutifully making the introductory remarks to open the discussion, I sat back and waited for the client team to take charge.

We were about 20 minutes into what was an increasingly frustrating jumble of comments going off in various different directions when someone on the conference call said, “wait a minute, what are we trying to accomplish here?”

That snapped me to attention, and I suddenly realized that everyone was looking to me for leadership on running the call. Yet, I was sitting like a lump waiting for those other colleagues to take the reins.

The rest of the call was much more efficient, but it was only thanks to that person who asked, “what are we trying to accomplish here?”

So, even people who know how to run a meeting – me, in this case – can be inadvertently ineffective. And even someone who isn’t in charge of a meeting can get things back on track again.

Action

For the next meeting you run, make sure you establish the purpose right upfront and agree what success is for that meeting. If it works well, why not extend it to every meeting?

And for every meeting you attend, make sure you ask “what do we want to accomplish?” And as a bonus question, once they’ve answered your first question, you can ask, “do we have the right people here to do that?” That way, you can have the reputation as someone who is highly effective in meetings.

So, what strategies have worked well for you?

Join the conversation

6 Comments

  1. Cindy

    Such a good reminder May…there is nothing worse that useless meetings…I would add that it is important to stay on time. It is very frustrating to me when a person leading a meeting let's it run way over. If I have other commitments I get put in the uncomfortable situation of having to decide it I get up and leave or if I am late to my next meeting. Thanks for this great reminder. Running effective meetings is so much harder than people think!

    Reply
  2. Angie Laskarides

    I normally cover what I call “housekeeping” at the beginning of a meeting and one item is to indicate when I plan to end the meeting. Then if things get off track, I can redirect by saying something like “I'm looking at our time schedule, and we need to conclude this discussion and move on. I know you all have busy schedules and I want to make sure we end our meeting on time.”

    Reply
  3. Mary Farrow

    One thing I do for all of my meetings is to include an agenda and level-set the expectations clearly in the meeting invite. I find that, those who are considered a valuable contributor are then easily able to prioritize, defer the decision making effort or request reschedule, quickly and easily.

    Reply
    • May Busch

      That's a great practice – thank you for sharing this with us, Mary! If each of us did this for even half of our meetings, think of how much time we would save and how much more we could get done collectively.

      I hope your example encourages others in your organization – as well as to those of us participating in this year's Challenge. Keep spreading the word!

      Reply
  4. Udo Rodemann

    Well run meetings are worth weight in gold when run properly. Such meetings have the potential to gain buy in to direction, establish tasks, timelines, and accountability, build understanding, more. Some cultures openly abhor meetings and discourage them. Imagine the reasons companies discourage meetings; are they successful? If so, by what criteria?

    Reply
  5. Pedro

    Sometimes we face similar situations however it’s no fun being between, boss and the client, however meetings are for the sectors strategy reconciliation, so if it occurs, as assistant i can invite him/ her to remind of the meeting negative impact, either to advice for establishing a new tusk, and perform the success of the meeting.

    Reply

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