This month, I’m taking it back to the basics with my “Career Boot Camp” blog series. Next up in the series is leading effective in-person meetings, which is a requirement if you want to climb the career ladder. Why? Because meetings occur in every business, in every industry, and in every country in the world – there’s no way to avoid them. Use these seven steps to dazzle colleagues and management with your leadership skills and watch the level of your credibility soar:
Define key aspects of the meeting: I once had a boss who held meetings with little preparation. There was usually no agenda and participants rarely knew why we were attending or if we needed to prepare anything. Each time this occurred, the level of respect for my boss dropped. Don’t waste your colleagues’ time – before holding any meeting, sit down and define the key aspects: What is the overall purpose? What are the goals/objectives? What are the key deliverables? Who are the key sponsors/stakeholders and why?
Determine agenda and attendees:Begin with the end in mind. Start with the overall purpose and objectives and then build the agenda to include the right topics and people. Break the agenda into sections by topic. For each section include: The start and stop time, description and goals, owner (the presenter or person responsible for the topic), and time for open discussion. Once you’ve created the first draft of the agenda, connect with each person you’ve listed as “owner” to verify their participation, discuss the goals and objectives for their section, and ensure clarity on what you’re expecting them to present/discuss.
Find and reserve location: Book the meeting location based on the number of attendees, the room set-up needed, availability for media (screens, computer projectors, erasable white boards, flip charts, etc.), availability for catering (if needed), and convenience to attendees. Block enough time prior to the meeting start for room set-up and enough time afterwards in case the meeting runs long.
Conduct pre-meeting prep work: While you can’t control everything, try your best to control as many aspects of the meeting as possible. Better preparation = better meeting. Meet with key stakeholders to ensure buy-in and support and then assign meeting roles such as:
- Note taker: Since you’ll be running the meeting, solicit help from someone to capture action items, issues, and any decisions for each topic/section.
- Timekeeper: I laughingly call this person the “cat herder” because they can jump into the discussion in case it starts going off on a tangent and bring the group back to the topic at hand.
- Devil’s advocate: This is someone who helps ensure all aspects of situations are explored and helps avoid “group think.” They can also serve as peacekeeper in case any heated discussions occur.
- Parking lot writer: This is someone with easy-to-read handwriting who will capture on a white board or flip chart any actions that come up not directly related to the meeting (but that need to be addressed in the future) and any issues or actions needing further discussion.
Open, facilitate, and close meeting: No one wants to be sitting in a meeting not knowing what’s about to occur, so take the time to open the meeting by explaining what will happen, what needs to be accomplished, and the outcomes necessary from the meeting. During the meeting, make sure in-depth discussion occurs and situations are examined from all angles. Capture key action items, issues, decisions, and steps for follow-up after the meeting. Throughout, lead by being a role model – by respecting the knowledge of the attendees and by encouraging respect for each other during the meeting.
Quickly send out meeting minutes: Send out meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting, while everything is fresh in the minds of the attendees and the momentum of the meeting can still be harnessed. Pre-write the minutes using the agenda as your template. Underneath each meeting section simply add areas to capture action items, issues, and any decisions made. When sending out minutes, thank attendees for their time and active participation. Remind them to review the minutes for action items, owners, and deadlines.
Learn from your mistakes: Improve your leadership skills by answering the following questions after every meeting: What went well? What didn’t go as well as I’d hoped? If I could have a “do over,” what would I do differently?
In an informal poll I conducted several years ago, I asked 100 colleagues how they would rate their overall experiences as meeting attendees throughout their careers. Here’s how they responded:
- 79% rated meetings as “run terribly”
- 14% rated meetings as “run fairly well”
- 7% rated meetings as “run extremely well”
Don’t fall into the bad statistic categories! A well-run meeting can result in increased respect from management and peers. An inadequately run meeting can spell career disaster because your seeming unpreparedness undermines credibility with management, provokes contempt from co-workers, and can even negatively affect self-esteem. Use meeting leadership as your opportunity to dazzle others (especially management) with your skills and abilities. As Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”