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How to Lead Team Meetings in the Most Productive Way

How to Lead Team Meetings in the Most Productive Way
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During a busy week, the last thing a leader or manager wants is a wasted hour or two sat in an unproductive meeting.

If I asked you what the most efficient way to be inefficient would be, I’m sure many of you would say “bad meetings.”

Meetings today consume more work hours than ever before. Today, leaders spend about half their week in meetings.[1] According to research from TED a third of that time is wasted on pointless, badly run meetings.

A survey from Clarizen reported that workers consider status meetings a waste of time and that almost 50% of respondents would rather go to the DMV or watch paint dry.[2]

In an article for Harvard Business Review,[3] three consultants from Bain report the results of an exercise in which they analyzed the Outlook schedules of the employees of an unnamed “large company” – and concluded that one weekly executive meeting took up 300,000 hours a year.

And that total, the authors write, “doesn’t include the work time spent preparing for meetings”.

How many meetings have you attended where there was no clear agenda or objective?

How many of you have sat in meetings that jumped around from topic to topic with no clear action plan at the end of the meeting?

If you’ve left meetings more confused than when you arrived, please raise your hand.

Meetings don’t have to be something we dread and endure. They don’t have to be something we drift in and out of.

We have to find ways for meetings to be far more intentional, energising and productive, that deliver real, tangible results.

So how to lead team meetings more productively?

Here are 10 ways that leaders and managers can start leading team meetings that are productive and effective, and beneficial for everyone involved:

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1. Frame Each Meeting in a Positive Way

To get everyone in the room in a positive mindset and energised for the meeting, a great starting point is to get everyone in the room to share something they’ve made progress on or are excited about.

This immediately sets the tone and direction of the entire meeting.

Rather than people being in a negative mindset about having to attend the meeting, they come from a place of positivity, contribution and positivity.

2. Have a Clear Leader in The Room

Whatever the purpose of the meeting, someone in the room has to take charge of directing and leading the meeting.

This person will set the agenda for the meeting, make sure it doesn’t go off topic and will ensure the meeting stays within an agreed timeframe.

They will often report on progress, give clarity on what needs to happen after the meeting, and get commitment from people in the meeting on future actions steps.

If there is no-one taking control, people with the biggest personalities or biggest opinions can dominate and stop quieter personalities from contributing.

3. Have the Right People in the Room

Think back to the last great meeting you were in… Was the meeting full of people “making up the numbers’” or was it full of people who were contributing and providing input?

I’m guessing it was the latter.

To lead a really productive meeting, take time to consider who will be involved.

You want people in the room who will add value, who are active contributors, have background knowledge, are decision makers, are action takers and who will be directly impacted by the outcome of the meeting.

Be wary of filling the room, unless you absolutely have to, with people whose motivation for being there is either status or a fear of missing out on something.

Focus on getting people in the meeting room who will bring productive contribution, not passive bystanders.

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If you have the autonomy to arrange your meetings however you like, focus on doing it so they deliver the most productive results.

4. Use People’s Unique Strengths in Different Meetings

Not everyone in your company or team are the right fit for every meeting.

A great tip for creating productive meetings is to get clear on what meetings team members should and should not be a part of.

Don’t think about just filling the room, be selective about inviting people who you know will make the biggest contribution.

We all have different strengths. Some of your team members will be great in brainstorming meetings, while others may get stressed out at the thought of participating.

The same goes for process and status meetings.

When it comes to creating the biggest impact from the meeting, it’s important to consider what energy you want in the room and who can bring the right value to a meeting.

If you have clarity on that, ensure the right people in the room.

During my corporate career, I used to lead brainstorming, strategy and status meetings. I knew that different members of team would bring different skill sets to specific meetings.

One of my senior directors was more strategic than creative, so I would ensure she was number one on my team sheet for the strategy meetings. But I kept her out of the brainstorming meetings, in favor of other team members.

Another team member was a great strategic planner, so I would ensure she sat in both brainstorming and strategy meetings. During the brainstorming meetings, her value was thinking about the plan and action steps needed to execute on the creative ideas.

Leading productive meetings is often about being the conductor of a great orchestra. If you don’t have the right complementary instruments and performers in the room, collaborating together and working in harmony, the result can be a big mess. But, if you bring the right performers together, the results can be magical and inspiring.

5. End Meetings with Clear Action Steps and Responsibilities

Think back to the last meeting you were in, chances are there were lots of great conversations, valuable inputs and insights.

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But what happened at the end of the meeting? Did you all go your separate ways, or was there clear action steps and responsibilities set?

It’s worthwhile to set aside time at the end of every meeting to have everyone share their biggest insight.

This reinforces contribution and collaboration and ensures everyone comes away from the meeting with a clear perspective on the value of the meeting.

To reinforce this further, it is the responsibility of the meeting’s leader to clearly lay out the action steps, personal responsibilities and timeframes for taking action on the key elements of the meeting.

6. Create a Clear Purpose for the Meeting

Staying on track is one of the hardest challenges for running an effective, productive meeting. The reason for this is that many meetings are set up without a clear purpose, or even agenda.

Some meetings happen simply because someone may have decided that you are going to have a weekly status meeting.

Turning up to meetings like that, without a clear understanding of what specifically the meeting is about, what the agenda is or what the priorities for the meeting are, can make you feel like the meeting is a waste of your time.

When you are clear on the purpose of the meeting, you will be more engaged, know what to prepare beforehand and know what the desired outcomes of the meeting are.

7. Hold the Meeting Standing Up

In an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the authors found that sit down meetings took 34% longer than stand up meetings.[4]

If you are finding that your sit down meetings are not being as productive as you wish them to be, change things up and get all participants to stand.

8. Make Meetings Shorter

If you have a clear purpose and agenda for the meeting, you should have a sense of how long the meeting should last.

Many meetings I’ve experienced in the past had a calendar invite set for either 45 minutes or 60 minutes. Some meetings actually finished earlier, but because the time frame had been set for a designated time, the meeting carried on going for no real reason.

Start setting meetings with a shorter time window, be that 30 minutes or 40 minutes, and see if the meetings become more productive and effective.

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Our attention span and energy levels can begin to drop off the longer the meeting goes on.

9. Start and End on Time

No one wants to be kept waiting for meetings to start, and have to reschedule if meetings overrun.

If you run meetings that start on time and end on time, participants know what to expect and know to turn up on time.

If team members choose not to arrive on time, it may be wise to have a separate meeting with that person to make it clear that you expect them to arrive on time.

10. Change up the Environment

If you find that meetings are slow to get going or are becoming stale, it might be time to change up your environment.

I’ve had some of my most productive meetings simply by leaving the office and going to an inspiring venue, or having a meeting or two in a local park.

The Bottom Line

Meetings are not going away. They are an inevitable, and essential, part of corporate and business life.

But to ensure they are not just a waste of time and are an effective way of collaborating and working to deliver and achieve major goals and projects, we need to set the meetings up so they are worthwhile, productive and produce tangible results.

We need to learn how to lead team meetings productively and effectively.

If you take action on the tips and strategies I’ve laid out on how to lead team meetings in the most productive way, you will ensure that you maximize the strengths and mental energy of everyone in the room.

Your meetings will no longer be something you and your team dreads or tries to avoid. Instead, the meetings will become a way to reconnect, get creative, decide on strategy, get support, celebrate progress, and generate productive momentum.

More Resources About Workplace Productivity

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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