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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 October 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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