Certainly, in a management role, you will have to be faced with the task of leading meetings. Although they are important and fundamental in various situations of corporate life, when poorly led, meetings can become destroyers of productivity and wasters of time.
When people ask me if I recommend doing meetings stand up to be shorter and to the point, I ask: Do you have lunch standing up? And to break the enigmatic silence that comes after the question, I answer it myself: I do, only in rare situations! Of course we are talking about two different things, but, mutatis mutandis, the comparison serves for an interesting reflection. If I’m at the airport, looking for a place to eat, but did not find a place to sit, I would probably eat a sandwich standing up. When I run a marathon (and it takes me a long, long time!) about the mile 21 I eat two bananas, while keeping my trot, plus a sachet of carbohydrate and an isotonic, and this is my lunch! What I mean is that, in certain situations, very specific, the meeting standing up can be a good option. For example, I held production meetings on the assembly line, making a summary of the previous day, talking about problems and solutions of production, reviewing the most important issues of the day, and giving everyone an opportunity to speak. That meeting lasted on average 15 minutes, and was made stand up, preparing the team for the job, and it was a good solution. I also attended meetings of “analysis of nonconforming material”, where we analyzed the possibility of reworking of the various parts, and this meeting was standing up in the area of nonconforming material on the shop floor, and I can also say that it was a good solution. But leave people standing up, just aiming to “quicken the pace” does not seem the best alternative, because the tips we will see next are much more effective. So I think that in most situations the sitting position is more appropriate. But each case is different, and do not be influenced by the “fashion” of the meeting standing up, which may sometimes be appropriate, sometimes not.
So when you have to lead meetings, keep in mind some basic rules:
- Start on time! Remember that, by default, your meeting should start exactly on time. Get used to it, and your colleagues will learn that you are punctual, and this avoids the vicious circle of the delay . “Someone delays because he knows that the other delays, and so, most of them delays” In conditions where the someone’s delay is impeding to the beginning of the meeting, , explain to everyone the fact, try to contact the person, and set a time limit; if you realize that the delay will be much more than 10 minutes, apologize to all, and prefer to reschedule another time. In meetings where someone’s presence was fundamental (a director, e.g..), I used to remind the professional about the appointment and confirm that everything was ok for his/her presence. And if there was some delay in fact, I used to go to talk to the person asking for special collaboration to maintain the meetings always on time.
- Remind everyone about the purpose of the meeting! Right at the beginning of the meeting (and when necessary), recall everybody the purpose of the meeting, i.e. the agenda and the objectives, the time for completion, and any other relevant and appropriate information to demonstrate the importance of getting all gathered there.
- Keep track of time, agenda and goals! Remind all what is the agenda, what is the goals of the meetting, and the time for completion. And from that moment on, you should start tracking the time of the meeting. One of the easiest things in a meeting is to get lost in time. This happens for several reasons, among them: because there are people who speak to much, because there are always people that start deviating from the subject, and also because some people want to get into a pointless level of depth. Encourage who is silent, to speakand give their opinion, and seek politely but firmly, to shorten the speech of wordy, always based on the fact that we need to be objective and listen to all , respecting the established schedule. In the last case, those situations that are not able to finish it on schedule, adopt one of two possibilities: either you combine extra time, an extension of time in order to reach a conclusion, or schedule a new time/day for this purpose. This serves to educate and discipline the participants, so that, at new encounters, all cooperate more. Remember that, in meetings where you are leading, what will be discussed or not is your prerogative. Do not allow others to use your meeting to discuss the new office layout, the new rules for the soccer championship or the quality of the meal served in the company, or any other matter outside the scope provided by you. If appropriate, arrange another meeting to discuss the specific new subject (if the subject is your responsibility, of course).
- Discipline is the key! Keep the respect and discipline, and avoid external interruptions, such as phone calls or messages. Allow to all to express their opinions. Don’t allow monopolization from anyone, neither a not professional attitude from anyone.
- Decision making! When decisions are to be taken, there are usually two options: a consensus decision (when seeking the convergence of all to a common denominator), or by vote. Seeking consensus, in some situations, can consume considerable time; therefore, consider the cost/benefit of one or another method of decision.
- Establish clear actions and the owners! If, during the meeting, specific actions were discussed to be taken, clearly set out these actions, with well defined responsibilities and deadlines.
- Create the meeting minutes! If not possible during the meeting, in 24 hours maximum after it, create the the meeting minutes and send out to all interested people. If possible, take the signatures from the attendants of the meeting on the meeting minutes (it has an awesome effect!).
- Distribute the meeting minutes! Distribute it to all interested and involved with the subject, not only to the meeting participants.
- Follow-up! Do the follow-up, whenever necessary, to ensure that the actions and decisions taken at the meeting are being fulfilled.
Doing this, you most likely will be delivering much more results, taking more advantage of the meeting, being recognized as an effective leader, and saving your time and the others’ time.