New Manager: Leading Meetings
Managers…manage. They also…manage meetings. Lots of meetings. Probably too many meetings.
So, as a new manager, we urge you to hold as few meetings as possible. (Especially because many of them are now on Zoom, and we are all oh-so tired of Zoom!)
So this third post in will discuss two things:
- How to hold absolutely necessary meetings and,
- How to lead those absolutely necessary meetings.
Making sure any meetings you hold are absolutely necessary
First, a fun fact: prior to stay-at-home orders, the usual perception that most employees hate meetings actually was….a myth! That’s right. MIT Sloan even produced a paper on it: with about 69 percent of respondents saying that the “productivity” of their “most recent meeting [was] between ‘good’ and ‘excellent.’”
Plus, if managed well, meetings can be a great way for colleagues to interact. And humans love interacting with other people. So, win! (Usually.)
But Zoom meetings? Unfortunately, video meetings tend to make people feel “isolated, anxious, and disconnected.”
Still, whether in-person (which we’ll return to….someday) or via Zoom, too many meetings is the blight of many offices. So keep ’em to a minimum.
How to know if a meeting is really needed
We’ve put together a checklist to help you determine if you should ask team members to come together to discuss one or more issues, projects, etc.
- Is it urgent or time-sensitive?
- Do you want a discussion or deliverables? If you want an exchange of ideas, it’s probably best to have a meeting. If you need to review something that’s been completed, send out an email asking for feedback.
- Are you responsible for the success of the project or deliverable to be discussed? If not, you shouldn’t have a meeting.
- If the meeting is to brainstorm, hold off on a meeting and instead ask for ideas/etc. via email.
- If you need input from a lot of people for a large project, you should have a meeting.
- Is the meeting to kick off a project? Then you probably should have it.
- How will you determine if the meeting succeeds or fails? That is, what is the outcome you’re looking for from the meeting? Again, if you want a deliverable (a document or spreadsheet created), you probably don’t need it. If you want collaboration, feedback, etc., you may want it.
- How often do you hold this meeting? If it’s a weekly update, could you hold it over Zoom (gasp!) or Slack?
- Do you have enough time to prepare? If not, hold off until you’ve prepared.
- Does everyone you plan to invite actually need to be there? For example, does the department’s assistant director need to attend along with the department’s director. Or could the director relay the info to the assistant instead?
- How long does the meeting need to be? If it’s less than 15 minutes, indeed, you could email attendees what you want them to know/hear?
You’ve decided a meeting needs to happen. Here’s how to lead it.
- Set one or more goals for the meeting. What do you want to accomplish as a result of the meeting? The fewer goals, the better, of course, but if you can’t ascertain what you want the meeting to accomplish, don’t hold it. Also, set a time limit for the meeting. Most meetings should be no more than 45 minutes long, tops.
- Create the agenda. That’s your job as the meeting’s leader. Everything on the agenda should somehow lead to you reaching the goals you’ve set for the meeting. If an item doesn’t help you accomplish the goal(s) you’ve set, don’t add it. (You also may want to distribute the agenda beforehand to those attending.)
- Only invite people who need to be there. Who needs to be there? Who should be there to hear what you have to say so that they can help you accomplish what you want to accomplish? Who has ideas that contribute to your goals? Is there anyone on another team/department who should be there? Still, no one should attend if the meeting’s content/topics aren’t applicable.
- Present the agenda and meeting goals. Say them out loud. Let people know the meeting’s end time (that 45-minute length mentioned above). This actually helps keep meetings on track. Which means shorter meetings.
- Take notes. And, since you’re leading the meeting, see if you can get someone else to take notes. This also helps you make sure you’re on track and enables you to ascertain if you accomplished what you wanted. (Notes also help keep attendees on track if you made assignments during the meeting.)
- Everyone needs to give their full attention. Require that everyone turn off laptops and phones (including text messaging). If something’s really important, someone can come to the meeting location and tell you. No matter if you’re presenting or listening, being present helps the meeting be more productive and effective.
- Don’t be the only one talking. Make sure others speak, too. Hearing you drone on and on? Well, you know…. Ask for input. Ask for ideas. Ask for critiques. Ask for project updates. In fact, it’s a good idea to ask someone else to lead the meeting if you usually/regularly do (good example: staff meetings).
- Wrap up the meeting. Once you’ve gone through the agenda, state key takeaways and repeat assignments given, and provide deadlines.
- Ask if anyone has questions. Make sure to do this AFTER wrapping up the meeting so that everyone has their marching orders (as applicable). People probably have asked questions during the meeting, and that’s fine. Just make sure to ask for them at the end, too. If a question/answer turns out too long and involved, ask the person if they can stay after the meeting.
- End the meeting. Aim to do so within the time frame you specified. Set a timer if needed (leave five minutes for questions after the wrap up).
The meeting really isn’t done until you follow up
Send the meeting’s notes/minutes to attendees. Re-state takeaways and assignments. Let participants know they can call or email you any time with questions or even see you in person, if needed (let them know if they need to make an appointment).
Next in this series: encouraging collaboration among team members
The idea of the successful lone wolf is a myth. Your department won’t be successful – which means you won’t be successful – unless your team members work well together.
But some people simply do better when working alone. And they probably prefer it. Our next post will offer tips on how you can help even your happiest of loners enjoy collaborating.