If I had to name one way that any employee could become a hero, it would be by fixing the broken ways we often conduct workplace meetings. You don’t have to be the boss to do it. You don’t even have to be the meeting leader. You just have to feel like you can’t take it anymore and apply a few improvements.
The ExecutiveBoard.com breaks down a list of meeting tips from a Google Ventures presentation. Its list is organized by meeting type, with the assumed goal, common pain points and specific fixes:
Brainstorming session: Sample problem: Chaos ensues. Fix: Keep it small. Have several meetings with fewer people instead of one gigantic one.
Decision making: Sample problem: Gridlock. Fix: Decide on the decider before the meeting. Power struggles not allowed.
Updates: Sample problem: Everyone is zoning out and checking their texts. Fix: Have stand-ups, where each person quickly provides their update while the group is standing. Meetings miraculously speed up.
One-on-ones: Sample problem: These are always being postponed in favor of supposedly more important tasks. Fix: Just do it. Even if you have “nothing” to discuss, important information will arise once you begin.
All Hands: Sample problem: Nobody pays attention unless something out of the ordinary comes up, like a reorg. Fix: Make it less boring. You must have something interesting going on.
A new Effective Meeting Checklist in the IT Business Edge IT Downloads section also presents easy ways to make your meetings more fruitful. The free download advises considering three sections to the meeting: pre-meeting planning, the meeting, and the follow-up.
The meeting leader will do most of the pre-meeting planning, but will rely on participants to absorb the agenda and any planning materials in a timely manner. That agenda will guide the leader in keeping the meeting under control and allow him or her to focus on goals that are often overlooked, such as taking a few seconds to make sure that participants feel their contributions are valued. Follow-ups won’t always be needed, depending on meeting type, but will often include meeting minutes, positive reinforcement (setting up for another great meeting with engaged participants) and the chance to provide feedback.
Trying to overhaul meeting processes, especially if your position requires you to run many of them per week, can seem overwhelming. But tweaking two or three approaches to goals that you feel are consistently hard to meet first could clear up some of the meeting anxiety for everyone and leave room to concentrate on other improvements. Or even meeting cancellations after you all get so good at meeting effectively that you don’t need to meet so often.