Leading effective meetings

by | Apr 7, 2021 | Effective Teams, Leadership

An important responsibility of leaders is running meetings. We have all attended meetings that resulted in nothing changing. In an article titled The economic impact of bad meetings, Pidgeon (2014), shared the following statistics:

  • “Executives average 23 hours per week in meetings where 7.8 of those hours are unnecessary and poorly run, which is equal to 2 months per year wasted.” 
  • “25 percent of meetings are spent discussing irrelevant issues.”

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Here are some tips for leading successful meetings:

  • Establish a clear purpose for the meeting in advance and communicate it to the attendees. Creating an agenda can help communicate the purpose of the meeting. Is this meeting only taking place because you have a regularly scheduled meeting on your calendar? Does this purpose require bringing people together? Does the topic require input from a group? 
  • Identify the individuals necessary to attend the meeting. Leaders need to make sure the right people are present, and unnecessary people are not expected to attend. 
  • Assign pre-work as needed to save time. Leaders can prepare for effective meetings by setting expectations for the work that needs to be completed in advance of the meeting. Having prepared attendees will make the meeting more efficient. 
  • At the beginning of the meeting, it can be helpful to articulate what the leader hopes to accomplish during the meeting. 
  • Utilize an external facilitator as necessary. There are times when an external facilitator can help move a conversation along, and this person can also help everyone be fully engaged in the content of the meeting. 
  • Use a timer to control the flow of the meeting. We have all experienced Parkinson’s Law. The amount of time it takes to complete a task is typically related to how much time we allocate for it. Teams can decide if timers are used as suggestions or strictly adhered to. 
  • Leave the meeting with an action plan. The action plan should include all follow up work that needs to occur, identify the responsible individuals, how the work will be completed, and a deadline for completing the work. It can also be helpful to set a follow up meeting as necessary. 
  • Debrief the meeting. At the end of a meeting, it can be helpful to have an open discussion about what went well about the meeting, what could have gone better, and any lessons that should be applied in future meetings.  

Leaders can follow the tips above to ensure meetings are successful. What other tips do you have for leading effective meetings? 

The statistics I shared at the beginning of the article were published in 2014. I suspect leaders have become more efficient with meetings as a result of the pandemic. We have all grown more comfortable with virtual meetings, and I encourage readers to consider some possibilities including asynchronous meetings through programs like Slack, collaboration through digital whiteboards, and very brief virtual meetings. 

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Pigeon, E. (2014, Nov. 17). The economic impact of bad meetings. TED. https://ideas.ted.com/the-economic-impact-of-bad-meetings/