In The Strategy of Meetings, George David Kieffer writes that the meeting leader must “make the team believe that (1) the group is worth being with; (2) individual members will have an opportunity to influence the outcome; and (3) the cause is one that warrants their attention and effort.”
As a meeting leader, how might you get these messages across? Here are a few ideas:
- Justify the need to call a meeting in the first place. Many valid reasons exist to hold meetings: to inform and discover, build unity, allow a dynamic question-and-answer session, make joint decisions and generate ideas. But there are also plenty of times when assembling a meeting isn’t the best use of everyone’s time; when the work can be accomplished, or the information communicated, just as efficiently (or more efficiently) via phone, email or one-to-one conversation.
- Before assembling a team and calling a meeting, identify the general purpose and specific objectives. For example, for a customer service problem-solving meeting, specific objectives might be: Determine why the customer service department is missing its deadlines 75% of the time; identify and evaluate ways to decrease turnaround time to 48 hours or less; find a solution that can be implemented before the end of the third quarter and assign responsibility for implementing the solution. These sample objectives are results-oriented, emphasizing specific outcomes. (An example of vague objectives for the same meeting might be “Find out how the customer services reps are doing and, if improvement is needed, kick around some ideas for making things better.”). When possible, link meeting objectives to organizational goals.
- Think of every meeting as an investment—because, to the extent that you’re taking people away from working on other things, meetings are an investment. Team members will believe the group is worth being with when they trust the leader has considered that “time is money” and has chosen participants carefully based on criteria like:
– As we work through the issue, what information will be needed and who can provide it?
– Who must authorize, support, be affected by and/or implement what is decided?
– Who will contribute to a good mix of ideas and viewpoints?
– How will each participant affect the productivity and morale of the group?
As part of your preparation for the meeting, contact each participant individually. Explain the purpose of the meeting, advise the person about the contribution he or she is expected to make, and determine any special needs he or she might have (such as access to WiFi or a projection system). During the meeting, actively encourage everyone to contribute and draw out those who seem reluctant to speak up. This will reinforce that you value each participant’s input and that you believe they play a key role in a successful outcome.
CRM Learning’s video program, Meeting Robbers, provides a wealth of valuable skills for planning and running effective meetings, while showing how to handle various team members who inadvertently derail meetings with counter-productive behaviors.