Successful leaders strive to build high-performing teams and it can feel like meetings get in the way. Harvard Business Review heard from 71% of senior managers that meetings are unproductive and inefficient. However, good leaders are drivers of meeting discussions that lead to great business decisions.
Here are four things good leaders never do in meetings.
1. Do not waste time Decide ahead of time how long a meeting should last based on the decisions you need to make rather than keeping to a strict 30, 60 or similar time interval. If a decision can be made in 10 minutes, schedule the meeting for 10 minutes.
In a March 2017 article on Inc.com, Jeff Haden gives this example, “So the meeting that starts at 9 is usually scheduled until 9:30, even if you only really need 10 minutes to make a decision. It's like the bigger-house syndrome: After you buy a bigger house, you somehow manage to fill it with furniture, even though you don't need any more furniture.”
2. Do not come unprepared Meeting preparation is critical to the success of the meeting itself and ensures everyone gets the most value from their time together to make informed decisions. Thirty-one percent of respondents ranked “poor leadership” in the area of meeting preparation as one of the top three reasons meetings fail. Meeting preparation includes reading the agenda and materials in advance, writing down your thoughts and questions, and starting discussions before the meeting in a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams.
A recent study by the Department of Organizational Science at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte (UNCC) surveyed over 1,000 employees to gain insights into their adjustment to virtual meetings. According to lead author Liana Kreamer, “Meeting preparation is one of the best ways to improve meetings yet is often overlooked. If meeting leaders can focus on driving that change, I think they will be surprised at the increase in engagement in their meetings.”
3. Do not dominate the meeting If someone is invited to a meeting, it should be because they are necessary for making a decision. This means they need to be heard. Lead by example: facilitate good discussions by encouraging everyone to speak, asking quieter participants to weigh in and not interrupting.
Leading meetings researcher Steven Rogelberg said in his Harvard Business Review article, Why Your Meetings Stink—and What to Do About It, “As the conversation gets started, try to adopt a stewardship mindset, asking questions, engaging others, modeling active listening, drawing out concerns, and managing conflicts. Of course, leaders at times will need to offer their own opinions and directives to move the discussion forward, but the key to successful facilitation is understanding that you’re primarily playing a supportive role.”
4. Do not fail to establish accountability With 40% of respondents rating “unclear decisions, commitments or next actions” as a top three reason meetings fail, leaders should rethink their meetings: Focus on decisions that must be made by the group gathered.
This means creating agendas that communicate a clear objective, such as, “select the new meeting management software vendor.” Then, be specific on action items and next steps. A decision is not a decision if it never happens. Get clear on the what, who and when of a decisions and never leave the meeting with vague accountability.
Great workplace relationships are built when people work together toward a common goal and can rely on each other to meet commitments. High-performing teams focus on tangible outcomes and meaningful goals, and meetings should be a place where these things are realized.