It seems we spend so much time in meetings these days, looking to improve them (and maybe cut them in half) helps everyone. But first, I’d like to share a perspective on ‘motivating your team’. I would like to offer to you that your job as a manager is not to ‘motivate’ others – in fact I don’t believe you can. Motivation is internal, and it’s a choice. From that perspective, whether or not I’m motivated is up to me, not my manager. As a manager, however, you can influence your outcome by engaging people to participate and keeping your meetings efficient and consistent. Here are some steps:
1. Plan ahead. Do not have a meeting without a clear agenda. Discussion meetings without agendas tend to run on and lose focus quickly. Set a clear agenda that lays out what we are discussing and for how long. Send that to everyone ahead of time so they know in advance.
2. Get it done less 20%. Meetings are often like water – they fill the space they are given. Challenge yourself to shorten your meetings by 20%. If your meetings are an hour, make them 48 minutes. If they are ½ hour, make them 25 minutes. If you share this goal with the team, everyone can participate in working towards the goal and you have an opportunity to reward the team with something fun (a joke, fun video, or just a few extra minutes now in their day).
3. Ask for preparation. If you have important information you can distribute beforehand via email do so. Be clear with everyone that you would like them to read and prepare ahead of time so that the meeting will be more efficient. When you start the meeting, ask if everyone has read the information you’ve asked them to. If you have any ‘no’ answers, pause the meeting and give everyone 5 minutes (or however much time is necessary) to read the information. Then begin your meeting. Don’t let others who aren’t prepared waste everyone else’s time.
4. Involve others in the meeting. Everyone does the talking. If someone is quiet, ask them their opinion. If someone is dominating the conversation, pause and engage someone else. Your job as the leader is to facilitate the discussion. But, be clear that no one gets a pass to multi-task, sit quietly or check out.
5. Be consistent. If this is a regular meeting, run it the same way every week. The magic of consistency is that anyone else can run the meeting in your absence. As a manager, if you can’t be there, your meeting can continue, which means progress continues. It also gives others a chance to build their skills by leading the meeting.
6. Keep an agreement log. I recommend posting a flipchart on the wall that tracks any agreements made: Who, What, When. If the page is blank at the end of your meeting, check in with everyone that ‘we have no agreements today’. If the page is filled, it’s your chance to confirm the who, what and when and gain clear agreements.
7. Ask for feedback. Take 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to ask for feedback. Very simply, what made this meeting work well, what didn’t work well. Then you can choose if you adjust accordingly for next time.
Meetings can be a struggle for everyone, especially managers. You can change all that with some preparation, consistency and feedback. The end result: shorter, more efficient meetings that might even be fun and worth everyone’s time, including yours!
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