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Posts Tagged ‘effective meetings’

Stop Wasting Your Time in Meetings – Establish Meeting Expectations

Meeting ExpectationsMeetings go long. Attendees stealthily text under the table like no one can see them. One person talks the whole time, while everyone else rolls their eyes. The decision maker isn’t there, forcing you to have another meeting. All the while, the facilitator does nothing.

Sound familiar?

The amount of time wasted in unproductive meetings and the degree of frustration meeting participants feel is astronomical.

The solution is simple.

Set clear meeting expectations at the beginning of EVERY meeting and hold people accountable when they violate the guidelines.

Most meeting facilitators don’t set expectations at the beginning of meetings. Instead they expect attendees to follow the unstated, assumed guidelines. And when the meeting facilitators’ boss, peers or customers are on their phone, it’s too hard to say something. So facilitators ignore the behavior, hoping it will stop without intervention.

The key to getting what you want in meetings (and in life) is to ask, which for the most part, we don’t. We assume people will do things as we do.

Tips for Running a Good Meeting:

1.  Set meeting expectations at your next meeting.

2.  Write the expectations on a flip chart and hang them up at the beginning of every meeting.  Or download our meeting  expectations poster and hang it in your conference rooms.

Meeting Expectations

3.  Review the meeting expectations every time you meet, even with groups who meet weekly.

4.  Ask meeting participants’ permission to manage meeting behavior. Your role as the meeting facilitator gives you the right to address bad meeting behavior. Asking for permission and letting people know you will say something if you see their phone etc., makes it easier to speak up.

5.  Tell participants they are expected to hold themselves and each other accountable.

6.  Then hold people accountable for following the meeting expectations. If you ask people not to side talk, address side talking when you hear it.  If you ask people not to be on their laptops or phones, ask people to put them away. If one person talks too long, interrupt him. You will have no credibility if you set expectations but don’t hold people accountable.

The reason facilitators don’t hold people accountable is that they feel uncomfortable. It’s hard to tell your peers, boss and other coworkers not to talk in circles. It’s almost impossible if you don’t set expectations about meeting behavior and set the expectation that you will say something when the meeting expectations are violated.

The simple act of setting meeting expectations and asking people’s permission to manage to those expectations makes doing so easier. Not easy, but easier. Asking your boss to put her phone away will never be easy, but it will be easier if you let her know BEFORE she pulls it out that you’ll do so.

You may be thinking, “I don’t run these meetings. I’m an innocent victim.”

As a meeting participant it is frustrating to go to poorly run meetings. But it’s also your role to speak up when you see things going poorly. Go to the meeting facilitator and give feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, follow The Feedback Formula outlined in my book How to Say Anything to Anyone.

Express empathy:   “That Wednesday team meeting is tough. I wouldn’t want to run it.”

Ask permission to give feedback:  “I’ve got a few observations and suggestions. Is it ok if I share them?”

Give feedback:  “I’ve noticed that several people have been missing the meeting and others are on their phones and laptops during meetings. This definitely limits what we can get done and must be frustrating to you. What are your thoughts?”

Make a suggestion:  “What do you think of setting meeting expectations at the next meeting and then telling people you’re going to hold them accountable?”

Offer help:  “You’re not alone in this meeting. I’d be happy to tee up this discussion and explain why we need to set meeting  expectations. What do you think?”

The facilitator knows the meetings aren’t going well. She just doesn’t know what to do. Offer to help. Don’t judge. She might be more receptive than you think. And you can stop suffering through poorly run meetings.


Follow Our Meeting Guidelines & Stop Wasting Time in Meetings

Meetings start and end late. Attendees slyly send text messages under the table, like no one can see them. Decision makers are absent, requiring you to have another meeting. One person talks most of the time, while everyone else tunes out.

The meeting facilitator wants to do something but feels like s/he can’t. How do you tell someone two levels above you to put away his phone and pay attention?

The majority of meetings are too long and a poor use of time.

You can impact the meetings in your organization, even if you don’t run them.

The bad meeting behavior mentioned above is predictable. It’s happening everywhere.

If you want your meetings to be different, ask for something different, before problems occur.

The reason your meeting facilitators feel as if they can’t tell their boss’s boss to show up and pay attention is because there has been no expectation set that it’s ok to do so. Meeting guidelines have not been established. And if they were established it was done long ago and the expectations were long forgotten.

Running an effective meeting requires courage AND an understanding that the meeting facilitator has permission and is expected to address people who break the rules. Even the most senior person in the room has given the facilitator permission to correct him. Without this permission, your facilitator can’t say anything, which is why s/he doesn’t.

How to have better meetings. Follow these meeting guidelines:

  1. Get meeting attendees’ agreement on the meeting guidelines.
  2. Give the meeting facilitator AND attendees permission to enforce the meeting guidelines.
  3. Take two minutes to set expectations before every meeting. Yes every meeting, even standing meetings. People forget. When you remind people of the rules, it’s easier to enforce them.
  4. Post the meeting guidelines in all of your conference and training rooms as reminders. Make the posters with large font that can be read from any seat in the room. We’ve made it easy for you with our Make Meetings Work Poster.meeting guidelines
  5. Periodically discuss how meetings are going – what’s working and what can be improved.  Create occasions and grant permission to give feedback. If it isn’t safe to tell the truth, nothing will get better.

Stop wasting your time in meetings. It’s never too late to set expectations. Hang them up on the wall for everyone to see. Anyone, at any level, and in any role can suggest setting and adhering to meeting guidelines. People in your organization want someone to take control.  Maybe it will be you?


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