Run Better Meetings

Dear, Anita,

Five months ago, I was promoted to a mid-level manager position. I’m now in charge of meetings for 8 employees on my team. I’m noticing a lot of yawning, texting, and doodling. How can I run better meetings?

Dear, Ben Stein’s Protégé,

Your question brings to mind the monotone professor from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Meetings are a fact of life in business. So I’m glad you have a desire to improve on this necessary evil for your team. yaM Labs claims that executives average 23 hours per week in meetings where 7.8 hours of the 23 are unnecessary and poorly run, which is 2.3 months per year wasted. Another stat on their site will make you feel a little better: 9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings. So it’s not just you.

Here are a few short and sweet tips to keep your meetings productive.

  1. Meet regularly. Outlook allows you to create a “recurring” meeting for good reason. If everyone knows there will be a meeting each Wednesday morning, they can schedule around it. Having a regular meeting to address team issues will prevent once-in-a-while meetings from dragging on and on. Which brings us to my next point.
  2. Have a time limit. And stick to it. Employees mentally check out when meetings digress. They’ll also be frustrated that it is eating into their time to finish the projects waiting for them back at their desks.
  3. Send a pre-meeting heads-up. Always have an agenda. This will help the meeting flow smoothly and not run off the rails. Sending the agenda ahead of time allows people to be prepared.No_Cell_Phone_Small
  4. Establish a no-phone policy. Unless someone’s wife is expecting a baby that day, most people can afford to leave their mobile device at their desk to minimize distractions.
  5. Encourage feedback. “Anyone? Anyone?” Alas, Ben Stein did not have much luck but if you create an atmosphere of lively discussion without going down rabbit holes (schedule brainstorming sessions separately), your team will be more engaged.
  6. Follow up. Make sure that any issues brought up at the meeting are assigned for action.
  7. Loosen up. I know you want to solidify your new position as a manager, but that doesn’t mean you need to be stiff. According to executive coach Susan Bates, “Humor actually increases your stature as a leader.”

You may want to incorporate a few other “feel good” ideas into your meetings. It’s a great time to acknowledge individual and/or team successes, project completions, etc., perhaps even award a dollar store trophy. Occasionally bring muffins or Starbucks; yummy treats are always a crowd-pleaser. Take a tip from kindergarten teachers and have show and tell once a month to facilitate getting to know individuals beyond the scope of work. Meetings don’t have to be boring to be beneficial.

Readers: Be honest, do you text during meetings?

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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