9 Essentials To Conduct The Perfect Meeting

By Rick Houcek

I was having a conversation with a CEO client of mine last week, and in it, he said to me, “Oh, I am so frustrated!  Meetings in our company take so long; they’re unproductive; they take us nowhere; we never come to resolution.  How do you fix this?!?”

And, I said, “Stop.  You’ve got to put into place some disciplines that most people aren’t willing to.  One of the biggest nemeses in business is lousy, unproductive meetings.  They kill productivity.  Let’s fix it.” 

Here’s what I told him.  9 specific essentials you’ve got to have in every meeting that makes them flow quickly, efficiently, effectively, and with results.

  1. Always have a purpose or mission for the meeting and announce it beforehand so everyone knows, and everyone can bring what they need as reference. Everyone needs to know why we’re here and what we came to do.
  1. Make sure you invite the right people. Those are typically people who have a stake in the outcome.  It should include the customer of the issue you’re talking about – who it is you’re doing it for.  And bring in sharp thinkers.  So, inviting the right people could be 1, 3, 5, 8 people, but make sure they’re the right people.
  1. Always have an agenda and send it out in advance, along with the meeting mission. Let everybody know these are the things that are going to get done and we have to accomplish while we’re there.
  1. Create rules of engagement or behavioral norms for the meeting. Like, no cell phones or laptops or tablets.  We’re here to talk to each other.  Put your electronics away.  Another:  let’s make sure we attack issues and problems, not each other.  Another:  while disagreement is a critically important to healthy decision-making, we will treat each other with dignity – never disrespect.  Another: let’s always be on time.  Those kinds of things.
  1. Have a facilitator for the meeting. Someone specifically in charge of running the meeting.  This could be the person who has the opportunity or issue that needs a solution, or if could be an outsider.  For example, I lead strategic planning retreats.  That’s not the kind of meeting you want internally facilitated.  You really need an outside, third party perspective.  But, for most meetings inside a company on an everyday basis, you can have it be an insider.
  1. Make sure that the leader of the meeting – the facilitator – is invested in the outcome, but not in the method. The leader should be a problem poser, not a problem solver.  That’s one of the reasons you gather the team – to get thinking from other people.  So, if the leader is locked into one methodology, what did you need the meeting for?
  1. Create an action plan with people responsible – with names and deadlines. And get it typed up within 24 hours.  This is one of the most missing elements of meetings.  Few teams leave with an action plan.  They don’t know what they’re supposed to do, nor what anybody else is supposed to do.  Be crystal clear about it.  Get it on paper – and get it in everybody’s hands quickly after the meeting.
  1. Always schedule and hold a follow-up meeting to check progress. During the initial meeting, announce: “We’re going to check-point completion on this, so let’s meet again in 7 days.  Let’s book the time and place now.”  You’ve got to make sure everybody’s got their stuff done.  Lack of follow-up kills both productivity and team morale.
  1. You have to hold people accountable. Don’t let people sneak off without getting their action steps done.  Smart, effective leaders aren’t afraid to look people in the eye – who committed to getting something done – and holding their feet to the fire.  And remember to celebrate success too.

One last point.  If you’re in a crisis, the rules are different.  Time is short and the stakes are high.  You really need command-and-control at that point, so conducting the perfect meeting as I just laid out may be different.  You really need someone to step in, make decisions, and bark orders.  But, what I am describing is not a crisis situation.  This is just an everyday meeting for a particular purpose to solve one or more issues.

Use these 9 steps and your meetings will be very efficient.


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