In episode 23 of “The JoyPowered™ Workspace Podcast,” JoDee and Susan share their advice for leading effective meetings. Topics include how to get people to focus in meetings, what to do when people don’t speak up, and never letting meetings run long. Special guest Tom Hinkley shares his thoughts on different meeting forums, holding people accountable for preparation, and meeting agendas.
We spend a lot of time in unproductive meetings, but very few people have ever been trained on running a meeting, and we rarely hold others accountable for even participating. There are often a lot of meetings within the meeting, or people get overloaded with emotions, information, logic, creativity, etc. Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats encourages people to separate meetings into segments for facts & figures, emotions, being the devil’s advocate, sunny and positive thoughts, and new ideas and brainstorming. This keeps people focused on the same topic at the same time and helps visualize how many reasons come from each segment.
When faced with individuals who don’t speak up much during the meeting, the instinct is often to ask them if they’d like to add anything. After hearing Susan Cain speak, Susan was inspired to end meetings by saying that the meeting is closed, but the agenda is open for 24 hours. This allows introverts the time to think things through – some people do their best thinking in the car on the way home or in the shower! Asking people what they think is still a good idea, though; it gets people in the habit of being better prepared for a meeting when they know you might ask them about it.
You should always have an agenda, ideally in advance of the meeting, but if there’s not enough time, put together a quick agenda at the beginning of the meeting so people know what needs to be discussed. It’s usually not a good idea to use a timed agenda, though; it causes people to be overly focused on how much time things are taking and whether they’re getting out of the meeting early or late. If you don’t start meetings on time, people start not showing up on time, so if someone’s late, move things around on the agenda so you can focus first on things that don’t require everyone to be in the meeting.
Make sure people that need to be in the meeting are there, and that people that don’t need to be there aren’t. At the beginning of a meeting, it’s helpful to explain why everyone is there and what their expected role is, and if you’re in a larger organization, take a minute to quickly reintroduce everyone. It’s important to think about who the best person is to lead the meeting; it may not always be the leader of the organization. Often when the senior leader wants to elicit true opinions from everyone and doesn’t want to influence the outcome, they’ll ask an outside person to facilitate the meeting.
Susan and JoDee talk to Tom Hinkley, who has worked in corporate America, the private sector, and the not-for-profit world, and currently runs his own business with a primary focus on executive search, but also consulting in the area of recruiting and managing fundraising operations. He discusses the importance of knowing the forum for the meeting; it could impact the effectiveness of what you’re trying to accomplish. In-person meetings are often more constructive, while teleconferences are more effective for updates. Tom also stresses having an agenda developed ahead of time, and suggests telling participants that if they’re not prepared to discuss the topics on the agenda, it’s best that they don’t join the meeting. When some people are live and some are on video or calling in on the phone, Tom suggests asking the people who aren’t live for their opinions and comments at 5-minute intervals so they know you value their opinion and participation. Tom’s favorite meeting tool is the “parking lot” – when a participant brings up an important topic that’s not relevant to the current meeting, he asks to put it on a “parking lot” that they’ll revisit if they have time at the end of the agenda, or put on the next agenda if they don’t get to it.
In this week’s listener mail, Michael asks for advice on holding employees accountable for their goals. JoDee and Susan discuss a recent SHRM blog reporting that some companies are moving away from telework.