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Best Practices for Productive Meetings

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Business colleagues having a meeting in a boardroom

Time is arguably your team’s most valuable resource. Unproductive meetings not only waste this precious commodity, but they can reduce overall employee engagement and undercut morale. Nobody likes to feel like they are wasting time.

Get your whole team on the same page when they adjourn with these best practices for productive meetings. These five methods will make your meetings action-oriented and a valuable use of your team’s time.

1. Establish a Meeting Purpose and Agenda

The first rule of best practices for productive meetings is determining the purpose of the meeting. Typically, meetings can be categorized as follows:

  1. Information Sharing - a one-way communication from the speaker to increase awareness on a topic.

  2. Discussion - a conversation between participants to explore and share ideas.

  3. Decision Making - this is facilitated by the leader for the group to reach a decision.

  4. Check-Ins - a quick dialogue by attendees to provide updates and problem-solve.

After determining the purpose of the meeting, ask yourself if having the group congregate is the best method for achieving your aim. For example, if the goal of a meeting is to share information, then possibly an email update or report is a better vehicle.

After determining the purpose, create an agenda. Outline what will be covered in the meeting and how long each item will take for a total meeting time. Share the agenda beforehand with all attendees. Ask them to review it, provide any feedback and be prepared in advance of the discussion.

2. Carefully Select a Leader and Attendees

All meetings should have a designated leader. This person needs to stick closely to the agenda. When discussions veer off topic, the leader needs to redirect the conversation to the bespoke topics at hand.

When it comes to inviting attendees, remember that the more people there are, the more likely the meeting will lose its pointedness. Be selective in who is invited to meetings. This helps the meeting stay focused, increases engagement and imparts the greatest impact on participants. Decide who are critical attendees. If a key player cannot attend, then the meeting's purpose will not be realized, and should be rescheduled.

3. Recognition, Feedback and Concerns

Strong supervisors recognize employees in front of the team. Use meetings as an opportunity to praise work well done.

Meetings are also a good time to connect with co-workers on a given topic, and learn from them. Ask for feedback during and following the meeting. Your co-workers might offer a perspective you had not previously considered that leads to a valuable insight. Maybe it’s a fix to a group problem on a certain project. Or, maybe it is an observation that adds to your own management acumen.

In particular, encourage your team to share their concerns during a meeting. Workers might spot a potential stumbling block on a procedure or project that you had not foreseen. Hearing out concerns, especially by management of subordinates, shows a desire to understand what front-line workers encounter as part of their duties. By listening to concerns, you can find solutions to improve productivity while also showing employees that you take their feelings seriously.

4. Assign Action Items and Clarify Takeaways

Discussing ideas and developing improvements is all well and good, but if they do not translate into tangible, real-world outcomes, they are of little use.

Make the connection between what is discussed in a meeting and what workers do with that information by creating action items. Action items are the critical components of best practices for productive meetings. Action items are a list of discrete tasks that must be accomplished by an individual or a team by a certain time.

For example, if your team has identified a coding problem that is slowing down production, create an action item to facilitate a solution. The task should be specific, assigned to the proper person (likely an engineer) and have a due date.

Ideally, action items will be added to the meeting agenda and notes. All of this information will be shared with meeting attendees for later reference.

Finally, clarify the key takeaways of the meeting. Reiterating the core points helps to build momentum for the knowledge sharing, strategy formulation and team collaboration that your meetings inspire.

Pro Tip: Rotate meeting administrative tasks like room set-up, note taking and time keeping to ensure these responsibilities are equally shared, thereby eliminating the potential appearance of bias among staff.

5. Set Team Ground Rules

Following best practices for productive meetings means establishing a set of meeting ground rules that guide the conduct of all meetings. Do not limit who develops these ground rules; incorporate the whole team.

Reach out to your employees to learn how they feel about meetings and their ideas on improving them.

You may find that people feel pressured to attend all meetings they are invited to, despite the fact that their attendance is not always necessary or a productive use of their time. Giving employees the option to pass on meeting participation might be the answer to increasing overall productivity and reducing stress.

While many solutions to issues hindering meeting effectiveness are relatively quick fixes - like forbidding the use of devices to increase attendee focus - some solutions are harder to develop since they are connected to deeper dysfunctions. If you find that poor employee time management or inefficient team communications are contributing to meeting ineffectiveness, use this discovery to your advantage. Address these underlying problems to enhance meetings, and in the process, you are likely to boost productivity and collaboration in other areas as well.

You can learn more about improving the effectiveness of meetings and how to incorporate your team in this process in our companion piece Are Too Many Meetings Unproductive?



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