Leading a great meeting requires that you have a clear concept of what you want from that meeting.
I recently coached a client, let's call him Aaron, who had an important meeting to plan.
Aaron had recently taken a new job, and he found himself managing an experienced and talented group. He wanted to gather his team together to discuss a big problem - the low conversion rate on the company's website. Aaron was told by his boss that improving this business metric was a top priority.
He asked me for advice on how to make sure the meeting went well.
Step 1) Create an agenda for the meeting.
Aaron came from a start-up, so he wasn’t big on formal agendas. To Aaron it felt stuffy and controlling to outline exactly what needed to happen during a meeting. He said, “I’m all about promoting agility.”
I explained that an agenda is simply a device to focus a meeting. It also allows people to come prepared. “I promise, your team will like it.” He decided to give it a shot. Here's what Aaron came up with:
Topic: Tackling our Low Conversion Rates - YTD
As a result of our time together on Thursday, from 10 - 10:45 a.m., we will:
Define the problem – What are the facts and what is the business impact? –15 Minutes
Determine our target – What do we want/need to happen by when? –10 Minutes
Reverse Brainstorm – What would make the problem worse? Traps to avoid. – 5 Minutes
List solutions suggested to date – Additional ideas? – 20 Minutes
Assign teams to analyze potential solutions. – 10 Minutes
Step 2) Develop consensus before the meeting.
Pre-selling ideas allows you to get right down to business once the meeting starts. In this instance, Aaron decided to pre-sell the problem as a high priotirity and worthy of urgent attention. That way during the meeting, no time would be spent questioning the mission.
Aaron accomplished this with informal chats prior to the meeting. He talked to members of his team about WHY decreasing conversion rates presented a threat, and he asked people to start thinking about new and creative ways to tackle the problem.
He kept the focus away from blame and set the tone for the solution focused discussion to come.
Step 3) Lead the meeting with energy to engage the participants.
Once the meeting began, Aaron’s facilitation skills came into play.
He opened the meeting by honoring the room, thanking everyone in advance for their help with an important business challenge. Aaron restated the purpose of the gathering and he reminded the group that he was depending on their expertise to find the best solution.
His interest in his team's point of view was genuine, and they could tell.
The meeting went very well. Aaron had a big smile as he told me that group came prepared. "Just as I'd hoped, they offered some creative ideas.” I divided them up into teams, and each team is going to present their recommendations in a few days. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!”
In just 45 minutes, Aaron got his team to own the problem.
This happend not by accident, but by design.
In summary, your MEETING MANDATE is this: always have an agenda, develop consensus beforehand (as much as possible), and lead the meeting with energy to engage the group.
End your meeting with a call to action to keep the momentum going!
P.S. – Remember, meetings cost money. Don’t have meetings unless you need to. If an email will do the trick, please write one and cancel the meeting. People will love you for it.