Meetings are the lifeblood of people-centered work.
But most of us are not adequately trained in the practices and tools needed to manage meetings. i.e. planning, facilitation, communication, decision making, and conflict management.
Part I covered how to prepare to have effective meetings. With an agenda published you now have a team of humans ready to make some decisions around a topic. So let’s talk about the process of running the meeting.
Open with a Clear Plan
Be on Time, Be prepared, and Start on Time
You’ve invested a lot of time in setting up the meeting time and your teammates are stopping their other tasks to attend your meeting. Start your meetings on time to allow ample time for discussion.
If you’re presenting be sure that you’ve already solved the “technical difficulties” ahead of time.
Use the “Opens” Process
At times, new and pressing items come up between publishing the agenda and meeting. We call these “Opens.” This process surfaces and handles the top of mind issues that might derail your meeting.
First collect the opens. The team goes around the room to see if anyone has any pressing issues. Only capture the item on a whiteboard or in a shared doc. This is not the time to go into detail or discuss them.
Address each Open item
The meeting owner goes through each item in the opens list. If the item is <1 min update and there is time allocated to “Opens” then cover the item.
If the item requires a discussion the group decides where to add that open item into the agenda (ie. which agenda item it should replace) or the group can call another meeting.
Keep the Meeting On Track with Roles
The majority of the meetings become unproductive in this phase. It is important to keep discussions on track and the team moving towards their goals in this phase. There are a few other roles that will help you manage the meeting.
First, each agenda item should have a specific amount of time assigned to it.
Choose one person to ensure that you’re staying on the time that you allocated to each agenda time. This person is also responsible for leading the meeting to an on-time conclusion.
The Decision Maker
For each agenda item define the decision-maker and the decision-making process. Major processes people use are: Consensus, Majority or other Voting, Consultative, Directive/Unilateral. This removes confusion for the team by signaling the kind of input the team needs to provide and when the discussion will end.
This person captures and communicates the decisions form the meeting. Critically, they are responsible to share next steps AKA Actions Required. Assign someone at the start of each meeting and rotate the role for recurring meetings.
“AR”s have owners and a due date. Someone who is not at the meeting should be able to understand what should happen.
I prefer the following format for simplicity and consistency.
Date Assigned - Item ## - Action Item - Owner - Due Date
This is a role that each participant can and should play. This role ensures that all voices get airtime. They intervene to bring in people who have not said anything during the meeting into the conversation. A simple intervention is to notice who is not talking and ask “Well, X, What’s your opinion?”
A second intervention is to ensure there is only “One meeting” at any time. This means there is only one speaker at a time. Don’t start a sidebar or engage in a sidebar when someone else is talking.
The Includer is a key role that makes sure that the loudest voices don’t dominate the room.
Concluding the Meeting
An effective meeting sets the stage for clear follow-up. Leave yourself time to wrap up with clear action items and a call to action.
Readout and Review the ARs
The scribe should read out each action item as captured (not as interpreted.) This is the time for owners of the action items to clarify any information that they need to complete the AR.
After this, it is the owner’s responsibility to disposition the AR before the next meeting or due date.
This is a critical step in the Meeting and should be published to all stakeholder within 24hrs.
Many people write minutes as a transcript. I find that it’s generally more efficient to succinct summary of the discussion and decisions- not a play by play. However,if trust is low a transcript might be more appropriate.
Effective meetings speed up the exchange, debate, and discussion of information critical to teamwork. No one wants to spend more time in meetings. With these tips, my hope for you is more effective meetings that drive the results you and your teams are capable of.
If you put in place these or find other tips and tricks for great meetings - I would love to hear from you. Twitter