by Steve Adubato, PhD

In any organization, the quality of meetings directly impacts productivity, effectiveness and employee engagement and happiness. Think about it. If your organization requires that you attend countless meetings that you find boring – and not especially relevant to you and your work – how engaged would you be? Yet, too often poorly run meetings become part of an organization’s normal course of business. I often hear, “It’s just the way we do things” as the explanation but I don’t buy it.

Poorly run meetings are largely the product of poor leadership. Now, I’m not saying leaders want to run uninspiring and rambling meetings that go on forever. However, they often do it anyway because they lack the skills and tools necessary to do anything otherwise. Strong leaders must demand that meetings are productive and dynamic as well as goal-oriented and concise. So if you, like so many other leaders, feel inundated and distracted by the meeting mania in your organization, consider the following best practices that can help you lead better more productive meetings:

--Distribute a realistic “goal-oriented” agenda a few days before the meeting. Precisely and clearly state the meeting goal in one sentence and outline what you are trying to accomplish. Fewer items dealt with in a realistic fashion are preferable to a laundry list of items you rush through. If word gets out that you run brief meetings, in which things are actually accomplished, most people won't grumble when you call a meeting.

--Determine exactly who needs to be in the meeting and who doesn’t. Inviting everyone in your organization to virtually every meeting is inconsiderate of people's time and energy. Ask yourself, “Who needs to attend and what do they have to contribute?” More people at a meeting is rarely merrier.

--Make sure the meeting leader is prepared to effectively facilitate the session. The meeting leader should be ready to ask clear, probing and open-ended questions that move toward achieving your stated goal. If not, consider what training or coaching is needed to ensure your meeting leaders are competent enough to run this important business activity.

--Don’t meet just to meet. Simply put, if everyone in the meeting is going to be providing a report or “update” on their respective activities with no real discussion or follow up, then why exactly does everyone need to be in a room listening to this? Given today’s technology, everyone doesn’t have to be in the same room to share information. If all you’re doing is dumping data, instead ask each meeting participant to send a one-page, bulleted e-mail with key points they want to share.

--Summarize specific “action items” and decisions reached. Meetings must be about moving forward, not rehashing the past, and moving forward is about taking action and making decisions. If your meetings don’t do this, something is not right.

Consider the leadership lesson in all of this. Meetings can be engaging and extremely useful OR they can be de-motivating and steal valuable time. Great leaders choose to lead great meetings. It does not happen by accident. They make a conscious decision to make the most of the time they have with their team and the payoff is huge.

Jack Miller, President & CEO of Solix, Inc. shares his leadership advice about enlisting your team’s support.