Any meeting without a written agenda should be cancelled.
On the contrary, regularly scheduled, focused, short, small meetings designed to get updates from team members and assign tasks and deadlines can be fantastic management tools.
Some managers seem to believe that simply holding a meeting with employees means they’re doing their job as a manager. Wrong. Bad meetings are time wasters and team killers – not team builders. You want employees to take meetings serious (not “loose”) so they see them as important and not a waste of time. And too many meetings could mean your manager is not doing his or her job.
Before we get to how to have good meetings, let’s discuss a bunch of things that need to be eliminated from your meetings if you want to stop having bad meetings:
- Don’t hold information gathering/brainstorming meetings. Unless you have a team that you already know excels in brainstorming sessions, they’re usually a waste of time, and managers should solicit information/ideas individually. It’s usually much better to give team members advance notice and have them present their ideas to the decision-maker in person.
- Don’t use meetings to make decisions. We know group decisions are usually poor, so why do we keep doing this? And waiting for meetings to make decisions is usually not smart, either. If you must make decisions in meetings, make sure the meeting has a clear, final decision-maker. Groupthink is real. It is deadly.
- Don’t hold “memo meetings.” Are you trying to disseminate one-way information to your employees about something that could be covered in a memo? Stop it. Write the memo. Skip the meeting.
- Don’t allow eating, working, texting, phone calls or phone checking in the meeting. Meet.
Now, let’s talk about how to have great meetings:
- Have a written agenda. Keep it as short as possible. Invite as few people as possible.
- Distribute the agenda in advance.
- Have a firm start time and don’t wait for stragglers.
- Have a firm end time and stick to it.
- Feel free to review and discuss accomplishments.
- Require updates from employees on tasks they are assigned. Ask how they plan to handle issues. Offer suggestions. Challenge approaches and ideas.
- Come out with a list of “to do” items, assigned staff and deadlines.
- Immediately set the next meeting.
Regular, efficient meetings are one of the best management tools in business. But it’s when they’re not effective that employees start to dread meetings. It’s when there’s too many meetings that employees start to not respect meetings. It’s when they’re too long that they become difficult to hold regularly.
Instead, if employees know that the meetings are important, effective and short, that they won’t skip or hesitate – and instead the entire team will see the meetings as valuable.