You spend a great deal of money on team meetings. Add the salaries and benefits of everyone invited to a meeting. Divide that total by 2,080, the number of work hours in a year. You now have the cost of a one-hour meeting.
For a leadership meeting, you may invest $400-$800 of personnel time. For an all-staff meeting, that number can swell to $3,000-$5,000. Meetings are expensive. That is a great, economic rationale for having a well-run and timely meeting!
There are many great principles for leading a meeting. Here are seven key principles. See how they impact your organization and may save you thousands of dollars.
1. Start on Time
As the leader, arrive ten to fifteen minutes before the meeting begins. Set up needed computer or AV equipment. Review the agenda. Get your mind in gear. By being ready, you give a gift to all who attend—you honor them and their time.
If you want to demonstrate to everyone how self-important you are, arrive ten minutes late. Take another few minutes getting out your agenda and setting up your computer. Then begin the meeting by saying, “I hate meetings.” By doing this, you can heighten your narcissism and lower the self-esteem of others. Everyone will hate being in your purposeless and draining meetings.
Starting on time can be a challenge. You might think, “but everyone comes late.” If so, it is time to change your culture. Send out reminder emails thirty minutes before the meeting. Close the door to the room when the meeting is supposed to start. Begin at the stated time. I begin my meetings “en punto” as they say in Spanish—“on the dot.”
However, I may not begin with the stated agenda item! Depending on the meeting, I like to have five minutes of inter-personal questions. This gives a short time of transition for the players to settle down, get ready and get to know one another. Consider asking …
About the content people view—learn what they are interested in:
- What movies have you seen in the last month? Or, what television shows have you watched this week?
- What books have you read in the last six months?
- What websites do you regularly look at? Or what news sources to you read?
About past experiences—learn where they have been in life:
- What was your best vacation?
- What is a great childhood experience? Or a terrible one?
- Who have been your mentors?
Sharing of dreams—learn about their hopes and envisioned futures:
- If you could go anywhere on a fully-paid vacation, where would you go?
- What would your ideal church look like? Your ideal work day?
- If God was giving out gifts today, what would you ask for and why?
Starting on time is vital. Taking five minutes to let everyone share, or selected people for a large group, gets people talking. You will also build team spirit de corps and learn about the team members.
2. Follow the Agenda
Allow for the team to give input on future agendas. This means that “today’s agenda” has their fingerprints on it.
For leadership meetings, set agenda items that are not tactical or maintenance work—defer these to individuals or sub-teams. If the meeting is of a tactical team, then stay on tactics. The agenda should mirror the purpose of the team.
As the moderator of the meeting, you have the final say on the agenda. With that honor comes the responsibility of a well-planned meeting. Circulate the agenda 48 hours in advance.
While following the agenda, allow for new topics to emerge. End discussion on side topics and “rabbit trails.” Those are not worthy of the team’s time. As vital new topics emerge in the discussion, add them to future agendas.
If an emergency topic emerges, get permission from the group to cancel the stated agenda so as to work on the emergency.
3. Encourage Robust Discussion
Discussion is one thing and robust discussion is another. Great teams talk to you and to one another. Your meeting will be successful when the members talk to each other about the discussion items. Encourage and value differences of opinion in the team. This gives new and needed insight into issues. A meeting full of “yes people” is mono-dimensional.
As moderator, your role is to identify key issues and problems in the discussion. Be a peacemaker at the end of a discussion, not in the middle. As the leader, make less than 25% of the decisions. Aim for consensus on the majority of the decisions.
4. Delegate Leadership
Let team members lead the discussion on various agenda items. This can be on items that are in their area or items which you have assigned to them. Ask for team members to give status reports on agenda items. Hold people responsible for their assignments. Let the group show gentle disapproval when someone fails their assignment. There is no better way for others to gain ownership for a meeting and to learn how challenging it can be to lead!
When you will be away and miss the meeting, delegate leadership to another person. Insist that the meeting happen in your absence. This develops the leadership capacity of the group and demonstrates your trust in the team. Honor and follow their decisions when you return!
5. Make Timely Decisions
Keep the meeting moving. Either internally or on the agenda, set a time limit for how long discussion should take on each item. Don’t shilly-shally or meander through the agenda. Some agenda items can take months from origination, evaluation, implementation to review. Acknowledge the time factor in lengthy decisions.
Stay on an agenda item long enough to have robust conversation. You may find that the item needs to be delegated to others for further work. Make a decision or defer further discussion to another meeting.
6. Empower Team Members
Empower the individuals to act on their assignments. Empower sub-teams to act, making decisions in line with vision and mission. The more that you empower team members, the more they will show themselves to be great leaders. Offer to coach them after the meeting on how to work through difficult issues. Be available to mentor and help them develop as leaders.
If people are not empowered to carry out the decisions of the team, then why are they there? With a lackluster team, you will find either you have the wrong members or you are not leading well. Ask yourself hard questions about how well you are leading and empowering your team.
7. End Early
Yes, aim to end early. No one will complain about a meeting that has robust discussion, makes decisions and ends early. In some emergencies or crises, you can extend the meeting—make this the rare exception.
Left to themselves, meetings fill up the time allotted to them. The problem with setting a 90-minute meeting is that we conclude that we must meet for 90 minutes. If you are done early, end the meeting.
As the team has made decisions, everyone must support those decisions after the meeting. Discussion is over when a decision is reached—that is why you want robust discussion during the meeting! Most discussions will bring a wide variety of opinions; affirm the positive role of each person in bringing intelligence and insight to the topic. Affirm as the leader that you don’t always get your way and that you often bend to the views of the team. Affirm the team’s decisions and end in unity.
This article began by talking about how much money in staff time we invest in meetings. Yet it isn’t really about the money, is it? The value of the team is in the importance of each team member, the robust discussions and the decisions that are reached.
Each person on your team has a vital part to play. The way that you conduct a team meeting should enhance both the individual and the team. Lead on!