Learning to Lead:
Five Steps to Pain-free,
By Suzanne Bates
think all meetings are painful, time wasting, poorly run and
unproductive torture sessions? If you hate meetings, you’re not
alone. Practically everyone does, and although businesses
have to run meetings, very
often, meetings run businesses.
More than just a drag, bad meetings can have a tremendous
negative impact on productivity and the bottom line.
think that the only thing worse than sitting through meetings is
having to lead them. After all, you don’t want all that wrath and
boredom directed at you, right? Rather than dreading running meetings, though, you can
embrace the opportunity to polish up and show off your leadership
skills. The style in which you lead a meeting will establish its tone
and influence the meeting culture. People will take their cues from
you, adopting your good practices.
types of meetings require different approaches. You must be flexible
and adapt to the purpose and participants in a meeting. While there
are different meeting styles, some practices and policies make all
meetings better. The following five steps will enable you to lead
and prepare for productivity: As the meeting leader, you must
determine why the meeting is
taking place in order to know who to invite, what to put on the
agenda, how long to discuss each item and even what methods to use to
come to a decision. Productive meetings begin with good pre-meeting
communication. Several days or even weeks in advance of the meeting,
call, e-mail or speak in person with influential people. Identify
which issues will need to be addressed. This checking-in process will
help you to deal with objections and build consensus.
Write an agenda
and stick to it: Without
an agenda, participants cannot prepare, so time is lost while people
read or catch up. Missions fall by the wayside as people talk about
whatever is on their minds instead. As the meeting wanders, some may
start up whispering side conversations and anyone dominant enough can
easily hijack the meeting. Agenda-less meetings often must end before
decisions are made, or decisions are made after key people have to
leave. Sound familiar?
that you can’t solve all the problems of the world in one meeting.
If you decide to spend ten minutes on something, and the ten minutes
is up, it’s your responsibility to move on. You may be amazed to
find what a difference just starting and ending the meeting on
time and keeping it clipping along will make in participants’ morale
and willingness to participate now and in future meetings.
Encourage discussion and participation:
Your most valuable resource is the collective knowledge of
others in the organization. A good leader encourages participation in
order to harness others’ creative power. Everyone will benefit when
you make the atmosphere safe and easy for everyone—even the shy
ones—to get involved.
of those who remain silent, and make it a point to ask them what they
think. You don’t want those who disagree with you or with the
group’s decisions to not say anything, and then leave the meeting
and attempt to undermine the decisions later.
Encourage participation by saying:
“Stan, you shook your head just now. What else do we
need to consider?”
“I would like to hear from Amanda on this.”
“Jack, you and I talked about something before the
meeting. Would you share it?”
“Do we have all the issues on the table?
Listening well and being able to provide a brief but accurate
review of what has been said sets
great leaders apart from the rest. To summarize effectively, you must
hear everything that is said, and even more important, notice what is
said. Take notes or listen in “note-taking” mindset to key words
and phrases. Put ideas you hear into the context of the whole
discussion, and you will find that this creates accountability. Ask
questions and then truly listen to the answers.
Questions that will yield valuable insights might begin with:
and deal with difficult people: As
a meeting leader, if you ask good questions and make it
safe to disagree, participants will debate issues on the merits. You
can’t allow discussions to get personal or let issues go unresolved;
otherwise, you risk damage to the whole organization, not just the
individuals involved. Meeting leaders must promote positive conflict
while avoiding personal attacks.
debate is usually healthy for organizations, some people in the group
will test the limits. Because they are angry or feel ignored, they
will argue miniscule points, be unable to see others’ views, or fail
to recognize the value of compromise. They may be poor listeners or
have hidden agendas. Most of the time, difficult people are unaware of
how they affect others, or what a serious impact they have on their
own careers as well as on the effectiveness of their teams.
difficult people from derailing your meeting, intervene in advance.
Speak with them one-on-one so that they can vent or discuss what’s
on their minds outside of the meeting context. During the meeting,
allow them to have their say, and even ask a few questions, and then
move on. Remember, your role as a leader is to enforce time limits.
Learning meetings skills leads to great opportunities: Good meeting
leadership is not as common as it should be. Few people have the
skills, and even fewer are taught how to lead meetings effectively.
Rather, like most of us, they sit through many bad meetings, develop a
lot of terrible habits, and then, when it’s their turn to step up
and lead, they just don’t have the skills to do it.
ability to run meetings well is a direct reflection of your leadership
skills. Your staff, your peers, and the people you report to will all
judge how you lead meetings and, in turn, whether your meetings
accomplish results. In other words, your leadership skills will have a
direct impact on the organization’s bottom line because the meeting
is not an end in itself; it is a vehicle to accomplish the work of the
organization. By following these five steps, you can learn how to lead productive, pain-free meetings, demonstrate
that you have these leadership qualities, and position yourself for
promotions and advancement in your organization.
Read other articles and learn more
about Suzanne Bates.
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