MEETINGS: Tools of a Leader’s Trade

Stop Resisting – Learn to Use Them Well

I grew up around the construction trades. Before I was even a teenager I owned my own power tools: A drill, jig saw, and circular saw. I still have the jig saw. But the circular saw had a problem. It was misaligned and it was hard to cut straight with it. I learned then that bad tools get bad results.Meeting

Good tools, on the other hand, make getting good results easier – assuming you know how to use them well.

Since a leader’s job is to influence, most of a leader’s tools involve communication. For many leaders, meetings are a powerful tool in their shop that they haven’t learned to use well.

What’s Your Meeting Culture?

How often do you hear leaders (and their followers) complaining about too many meetings? That comes from a mindset that “real work” gets done outside of meetings and meetings are a distraction. So everyone complains that meetings interfere with production.

The problem isn’t usually too many meetings. The problem is badly-led meetings. Good meetings increase the effectiveness of the time outside of meetings. It’s like sharpening your saw. The work is easier and cleaner when you take the time to sharpen the saw blade before cutting.

If you’re hearing constant complaints about meetings, it’s your responsibility as a leader to fix that. Your job is to create a culture where meetings are well-led and valued because they contribute to everyone’s success. And the first step is to change your own attitude and language about meetings.

Doing Meetings Well

Start by recognizing the different kinds of meetings you need. A craftsman wouldn’t cut sheet metal with a chain saw and wouldn’t cut down a tree with a hacksaw. One-on-One meetings serve a different purpose than a project team meeting, which is different than a department meeting, which is different than a company-wide meeting. Some meetings are informational, some are for making decisions, some for generating ideas, and some are working sessions to reach a particular outcome. Each has its own rhythm, techniques, and objectives, but here are some foundations they all build on:

  • Everyone knows WHY you’re meeting – Is the criteria for a successful meeting well defined and understood by all?
  • Everyone knows why THEY are there – Everyone should be able to answer, “Why am I going?” before the meeting. “Because I was told to be there” is not a good answer.
  • Everyone knows the meeting will be efficient – That means agendas and other preparatory materials will be sent well ahead of time and everyone will have reviewed them appropriately. You won’t create an efficient meeting culture if people (including – no, especially – the CEO) know they can get away with coming to meetings unprepared.

Note that sometimes time spent on relational engagement is the most important and efficient thing you can do in a meeting. Relationships grease the skids of difficult discussions.

There’s obviously a lot more to doing meetings well. Hopefully, this wets your appetite to want to do them well and motivates you to pursue developing the necessary skills and culture. © 2022 enLumen Leadership Services

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