Take a few minutes at the start of a meeting to clarify everyone’s understanding of the basic elements: purpose, agenda, ground rules, process, etc. Leave a few minutes at the end of a meeting for feedback, e.g. what worked, what didn’t work; did we achieve the meeting goals, why / why not.
Nothing ruins a meeting faster than getting off-track. Staying “on point” per an agenda should be your primary objective when you are running a meeting. All agendas should be in writing. Distribute them in advance whenever possible and make sure everyone understands why they’re there at the start of the meeting.
Set rules for your meetings. Are cell phones allowed to be on? Is anyone allowed to speak up anytime he/she has something to say? When are challenges or criticisms allowed? Ground rules governing group behavior should be posted somewhere in the meeting space where everyone can see them. Get “buy-in” during your opening remarks.
Just because you called the meeting or just because you’re “the boss” doesn’t mean you have to lead or facilitate the meeting. Ideally, someone who is not a stakeholder in the meeting should facilitate. Two benefits come from this. First, the facilitator can concentrate on making sure the meeting is productive without worrying about the content of the outcome. Second, you are free to engage fully in the meeting content without worrying about the process of the meeting. Also, ask another person to be a scribe when lists are being written on a flip chart or dry-erase board.
From brainstorming for a new idea to getting through a highly structured weekly staff meeting, there is a process that can help move the group smoothly from start to finish. Get clarity that everyone understands the process, and then get everyone involved.
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