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Published on March 19, 2019

How to Lead Team Meetings in the Most Productive Way

How to Lead Team Meetings in the Most Productive Way

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 September 30, 2019

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

How To Write Effective Meeting Minutes (with Examples)

Minutes are a written record of a board, company, or organizational meeting. Meeting minutes are considered a legal document, so when writing them, strive for clarity and consistency of tone.

Because minutes are a permanent record of the meeting, be sure to proofread them well before sending. It is a good idea to run them by a supervisor or seasoned attendee to make sure statements and information are accurately captured.

The best meeting minutes takers are careful listeners, quick typists, and are adequately familiar with the meeting topics and attendees. The note taker must have a firm enough grasp of the subject matter to be able to separate the important points from the noise in what can be long, drawn-out discussions. And, importantly, the note taker should not simultaneously lead and take notes. (If you’re ever asked to do so, decline.)

Following, are some step-by-step hints to effectively write meeting minutes:

1. Develop an Agenda

Work with the Chairperson or Board President to develop a detailed agenda.

Meetings occur for a reason, and the issues to be addressed and decided upon need to be listed to alert attendees. Work with the convener to draft an agenda that assigns times to each topic to keep the meeting moving and to make sure the group has enough time to consider all items.

The agenda will serve as your outline for the meeting minutes. Keep the minutes’ headings consistent with the agenda topics for continuity.

2. Follow a Template from Former Minutes Taken

If you are new to a Board or organization, and are writing minutes for the first time, ask to see the past meeting minutes so that you can maintain the same format.

Generally, the organization name or the name of the group that is meeting goes at the top: “Meeting of the Board of Directors of XYZ,” with the date on the next line. After the date, include both the time the meeting came to order and the time the meeting ended.

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Most groups who meet do so regularly, with set agenda items at each meeting. Some groups include a Next Steps heading at the end of the minutes that lists projects to follow up on and assigns responsibility.

A template from a former meeting will also help determine whether or not the group records if a quorum was met, and other items specific to the organization’s meeting minutes.

3. Record Attendance

On most boards, the Board Secretary is the person responsible for taking the meeting minutes. In organizational meetings, the minutes taker may be a project coordinator or assistant to a manager or CEO. She or he should arrive a few minutes before the meeting begins and pass around an attendance sheet with all members’ names and contact information.

Meeting attendees will need to check off their names and make edits to any changes in their information. This will help as both a back-up document of attendees and ensure that information goes out to the most up-to-date email addresses.

All attendees’ names should be listed directly below the meeting name and date, under a subheading that says “Present.” List first and last names of all attendees, along with title or affiliation, separated by a comma or semi-colon.

If a member of the Board could not attend the meeting, cite his or her name after the phrase: “Copied To:” There may be other designations in the participants’ list. For example, if several of the meeting attendees are members of the staff while everyone else is a volunteer, you may want to write (Staff) after each staff member.

As a general rule, attendees are listed alphabetically by their last names. However, in some organizations, it’s a best practice to list the leadership of the Board first. In that case, the President or Co-Presidents would be listed first, followed by the Vice President, followed by the Secretary, and then by the Treasurer. Then all other names of attendees would be alphabetized by last name.

It is also common practice to note if a participant joined the meeting via conference call. This can be indicated by writing: “By Phone” and listing the participants who called in.

4. Naming Convention

Generally, the first time someone speaks in the meeting will include his or her name and often the title.

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For example, “President of the XYZ Board, Roger McGowan, called the meeting to order.” The next time Roger McGowan speaks, though, you can simply refer to him as “Roger.” If there are two Rogers in the meeting, use an initial for their last names to separate the two. “Roger M. called for a vote. Roger T. abstained.”

5. What, and What Not, to Include

Depending on the nature of the meeting, it could last from one to several hours. The attendees will be asked to review and then approve the meeting minutes. Therefore, you don’t want the minutes to extend into a lengthy document.

Capturing everything that people say verbatim is not only unnecessary, but annoying to reviewers.

For each agenda item, you ultimately want to summarize only the relevant points of the discussion along with any decisions made. After the meeting, cull through your notes, making sure to edit out any circular or repetitive arguments and only leave in the relevant points made.

6. Maintain a Neutral Tone

Minutes are a legal document. They are used to establish an organization’s historical record of activity. It is essential to maintain an even, professional tone. Never put inflammatory language in the minutes, even if the language of the meeting becomes heated.

You want to record the gist of the discussion objectively, which means mentioning the key points covered without assigning blame. For example, “The staff addressed board members’ questions regarding the vendor’s professionalism.”

Picture a lawyer ten years down the road reading the minutes to find evidence of potential wrongdoing. You wouldn’t want an embellishment in the form of a colorful adverb or a quip to cloud any account of what took place. Here’s a list of neutral sounding words to get started with.

7. Record Votes

The primary purpose of minutes is to record any votes a board or organization takes. Solid record-keeping requires mentioning which participant makes a motion — and what the motion states verbatim — and which participant seconds the motion.

For example, “Vice President Cindy Jacobsen made a motion to dedicate 50 percent, or $50,000, of the proceeds from the ZZZ Foundation gift to the CCC scholarship fund. President Roger McGowan seconded the motion.”

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This vote tabulation should be expressed in neutral language as well. “The Board voted unanimously to amend the charter in the following way,” or “The decision to provide $1,000 to the tree-planting effort passed 4 to 1, with Board President McGowan opposing.”

Most Boards try to get a vote passed unanimously. Sometimes in order to help the Board attain a more cohesive outcome, a Board member may abstain from voting. “The motion passed 17 to 1 with one absension.”

8. Pare down Notes Post-Meeting

Following the meeting, read through your notes while all the discussions remain fresh in your mind, and make any needed revisions. Then, pare the meeting minutes down to their essentials, providing a brief account of the discussion that summarizes arguments made for and against a decision.

People often speak colloquially or in idioms, as in: “This isn’t even in the ballpark” or “You’re beginning to sound like a broken record.” While you may be tempted to keep the exact language in the minutes to add color, resist.

Additionally, if any presentations are part of the meeting, do not include information from the Powerpoint in the minutes. However, you will want to record the key points from the post-presentation discussion.

9. Proofread with Care

Make sure that you spelled all names correctly, inserted the correct date of the meeting, and that your minutes read clearly.

Spell out acronyms the first time they’re used. Remember that the notes may be reviewed by others for whom the acronyms are unfamiliar. Stay consistent in headings, punctuation, and formatting. The minutes should be polished and professional.

10. Distribute Broadly

Once approved, email minutes to the full board — not just the attendees — for review. Your minutes will help keep those who were absent apprised of important actions and decisions.

At the start of the next meeting, call for the approval of the minutes. Note any revisions. Try to work out the agreed-upon changes in the meeting, so that you don’t spend a huge amount of time on revisions.

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Ask for a motion to approve the minutes with the agreed-upon changes. Once an attendee offers a motion, ask for another person in the meeting to “second” the motion. They say, “All approved.” Always ask if there is anyone who does not approve. Assuming not, then say: “The minutes from our last meeting are approved once the agreed-upon changes have been made.”

11. File Meticulously

Since minutes are a legal document, take care when filing them. Make sure the file name of the document is consistent with the file names of previously filed minutes.

Occasionally, members of the organization may want to review past minutes. Know where the minutes are filed!

One Caveat

In this day and age of high technology, you may ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be simpler to record the meeting? This depends on the protocols of the organization, but probably not.

Be sure to ask what the rules are at the organization where you are taking minutes. Remember that the minutes are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said at the meeting.

The minutes reflect decisions not discussions. In spite of their name, “minutes,” the minutes are not a minute-by-minute transcript.

Bottom Line

Becoming an expert minutes-taker requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, and some practice, but by following these tips you will soon become proficient.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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