Dr Simon Hayward from Cirrus writes for Minutehack

Does your diary fill up with back-to-back meetings every day? When I ask the leaders I work with this question, everybody nods. In fact, most feel overwhelmed by ‘meeting madness’.

Meetings can be valuable. There are times when we need make shared decisions, review progress on projects, learn together and improve performance.

However, meetings can also be a terrible time consumer. Often they’re longer (or shorter) than they need to be, involve too many people, are poorly planned, poorly chaired, lack focus, and aren’t properly followed up.

Below I offer some tips to help you avoid these common pitfalls and ensure that your meetings are positive and productive.

1. Have a clear purpose and agenda. Although this sounds obvious, ensuring that everyone knows why the meeting is taking place and what it’s going to focus on will ensure that your meeting will be effective.

2. Focus on facilitation. The role of a good chair or meeting facilitator is to maintain focus and ensure everyone contributes where relevant. This is particularly important (and often quite challenging) during virtual meetings or when some attendees are together in one location and others are present on a screen or via a phone line.

3. Set a clear process. It’s important to have clarity around decision-making. Agree who has decision-making rights but also encourage divergent and convergent dialogue to ensure that a range of views are taken into account.

4. Only include the relevant people.Too many people in a meeting can make it difficult to focus. When you think about your agenda, think about who needs to be there to address each point. Often there are others who simply need to be kept updated rather than involved in every meeting.

5. Set the rhythm to fit the purpose. So for example, there is a lot of value in a daily huddle for a project team every morning. These meetings are quick check-ins to keep everyone on track. The same team may meet up once a month for a project review. This needs more structure and more time.

6. Try a walking meeting. Most of us spend far too much time sitting down. If you need a half-hour catch-up with one or two other people in the same location, consider going for a short walk. It’s energising and good for your health. If you need to make a few quick notes, use your smartphone.

7. Be robust about following-up. Make sure that actions are taken forward and that colleagues take responsibility for this. Check-in regularly between meetings and hold each other accountable.

8. Take time to reflect. What went well, and what didn’t? Think about the behaviour of people in the meeting, the dynamics, how focused you all were. Were some people distracted or disengaged while others did all the talking? When was the meeting at its most energised? Think about how you can overcome the negatives and build on the positives next time.

9. You don’t need to fill all the available time. Usually, meetings will take a full hour or two hours because that’s the time that’s been scheduled. So stay focused on your agenda and set a goal to finish 15 minutes earlier so people have a break for a coffee/email catch-up/informal chat.

…and that’s why we’re offering nine top tips instead of feeling we have to offer you ten.

By Dr Simon Hayward, CEO of Cirrus, honorary professor at Alliance Manchester Business School, author of The Agile Leader and Connected Leadership.

© Minutehack 2019.

Read this article in full on the Minutehack website.

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