José Mota

Product & Coaching

Productive meetings

Published on .

Tagged under soft skills.

Around 2 min read.

I’m going to go a limb and assume you’ve had at least one meeting in your entire career. Were you happy you participated actively or did you feel like it was a waste of time for you and others?

I’ve visited some fellow colleagues to engage in meaningful discussion related to how people feel about behavioral skills in their work life. I’ve had immense amounts of feedback and I noticed that the meetings I held were very purposeful and drew lots of insights, albeit small.

A good leader knows how to host a proper meeting.

  • Before the meeting, the leader ensures it is necessary. If so, the leader suggests a straightforward agenda, in a timely manner, with the exact amount of time needed. He or she invites the minimum necessary amount of people for it and asks them — and himself — to prepare. Before I traveled to meet my leaders and colleagues, I had a very specific objective in mind when meeting each one and we didn’t deviate too much from the agenda I had devised earlier.

  • During the meeting, the leader asks direct questions related to the agenda. If there are external concerns that need to be addressed, he or she writes them down so they can be attended afterwards and not waste time. When I held the meetings during those days, I made an effort to focus on the agenda at hand, if ever so informally, depending on the tone of the meeting. I wanted to ask direct questions about the topics at hand and engaged actively in discourse and listened to their stories.

  • After the meeting, the leader gathers all relevant information, writes them down for future reference and follows up on decisions made. Furthermore, is the fundamental that he or she reviews the overall rhythm of the meeting: did everyone participate enough? Were there too many distractions? Was the agenda discussed effectively? Were there decisions made or not? Before I jumped on the train the last day, I grabbed my laptop and started writing all the conclusions and insights I drew when talking all the people I engaged with. The ideas were fresh and I was pumped to write them down, I felt unstoppable.

Some tips to help you

  1. When holding standups, cultivate the idea of being short and sweet. Each one should say nothing more than what they did since last time, what they want to accomplish next and who can help with those goals. If there are important issues to go over in detail, spare some time during the day to go over them with the relevant people.
  2. When scheduling a brainstorming session, be very clear about its goals to everyone who is participating. Also, ask them to come prepared with some ideas to begin with so they serve as foundation to further creativity. Bring refreshments and light snacks so the team stays energized and keep a neutral-to-positive stance towards ideas.
  3. Question yourself if you really need to host a meeting just because everyone needs to pay attention at the same time to an announcement you’re making. Think about whether it’s better to publish a written piece or record a video on what it is you’re announcing, instead of stealing the entire company’s time and money. 30 minutes per person is a lot of money; don’t throw it away. If you’d still like to get questions from your team/company, book a quick 15-20 minute slot, remote or in premises. Have people prepare questions in advance so there’s no waste.
  4. Recall power moves at the end of a meeting. Decisions that are made during its course should be reminded to everyone so they know the meeting has been effective.
  5. A call/conversation is not really a meeting. However, it deserves proper preparation if either side feels like they need time to accommodate such an interaction.
  6. Slides are the bane of meetings. Use them sparingly, don’t cram stuff in.