11 Techniques Successful Leaders Use to Run Effective Meetings

A part of the journey for leadership teams to become their best is learning to run highly effective weekly meetings using the Level 10 Meeting Agenda.

During these meetings, I’m often a “fly on the wall,” just observing. Recently, I observed a tooling company that has become incredibly productive during their weekly meetings. After the meeting, I gave them some feedback to improve their meeting effectiveness even more. In fact, I’ve found that most businesses can benefit from similar themes of feedback.

These are 11 techniques that highly successful entrepreneurs use to run their business meetings. Try them out and see how they impact your own meetings.

11 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Weekly Business Meetings

1) Paper copies for everyone

Make sure each member of the leadership team has a current paper copy of the agenda, Scorecard, and Rocks in front of them. Why? Everyone learns and absorbs information at a different pace. If everyone is looking at this information on the screen, they might miss something important. Plus, having the sheet right in front of you allows you to jot down notes, questions, and connect the dots by circling or highlighting things of importance.

2) Speed reporting

The first three items on the agenda (Scorecard numbers, Rocks, and People Headlines) are speed reporting. Resist the temptation to discuss items or ask questions here. At this point in the meeting, you don’t know what the hottest and most important issue is. So anything you discuss now is wasting the rest of the team’s time. If you have five people on the leadership team that are compensated at $100/hr each and you spend 20 minutes discussing something here, you’ve just cost the company $166 in wasted time that you can’t get back! Instead, drop questions and comments down to the Issues list.

3) Read all Rocks aloud and only take “On Track” or “Off Track” replies

Reading each rock aloud gets everyone to follow along and drives accountability in the room. It also prompts questions, ideas, and problems about the priorities when others see them and hear them at the same time. Any questions or “off track” rocks are dropped down to the Issues list.

4) Complete 90%+ of weekly To-Dos

This is the secret to gaining traction. Teams that consistently get 90%+ completions each week get more done faster. In his book Time Warrior, Steve Chandler explains that when you drive things to completion with consistency, it gives you and the team energy, and makes the team even more productive. Conversely, only partial completion will drain your energy, make you less productive, and raise your stress level.

5) Stop Sidebars

When more than one conversation is going on at the same time, the team is missing valuable information. These additional conversations are known as “sidebar” conversations. I haven’t met a human being that can be 100% fully attentive to two conversations at the same time. Instead, sidebar conversations create confusion on the team, then extra time is spent catching up the others in the room.

Not only is it unhealthy for a team to have sidebars, it’s plain rude. Talking to the person next to you while someone else is talking is the ultimate form of disrespect to the person that has the floor.

6) Clarify the real issue first!

The issue you’re attempting to tackle first is rarely the real issue. Why? One issue can trigger different thoughts by everyone in the room. And this leads to tangential discussions that aren’t always the hottest and most important—wasting the team’s valuable time.

A great technique is to have the facilitator drive the team to clarity on the “real” issue is. As the team digs down to the root cause, list potential real issues on the whiteboard. It’s not uncommon for as many as four issues to be uncovered as you’re digging deeper. Think of it as peeling back layers of an onion.

Once all the potential “real” issues are on the board, take them in priority order, one at a time. This will focus the team’s energy into the most effective use of time. Solving the real issue at the root cause will typically fix multiple other issues on the list as well.

7) Everyone participates—no holding back

If a topic in a meeting is discussed after the meeting, then someone was holding back. On a healthy team, everyone is heard. Even if their perspective isn’t the direction the team goes with, they can usually live with the decision because they’ve been heard.

On an unhealthy team, conversations ensue after the meeting about a frustration they had, and usually wasn’t said. Get it out on the table in the meeting—otherwise you’re hurting the company!

8) Pass the torch

If you’re the one bringing up an issue, have someone else facilitate. When it’s your issue and you’re the facilitator of the meeting, it can be difficult to see the issue from any other perspective, making your facilitation of the issue biased. When this happens, pass the torch just for this issue. Have someone else lead the team and you’ll get to the real issue faster.

9) Make the To-Do’s actions SMART

So many people overlook this step because they want to rush to the next issue. Each To Do (7-day action item) that comes out of solving an issue must be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Make sure the team is on the same page with exactly what needs to be done by next week’s meeting, and that the wording of the To Do illustrates that.

It takes time to make To Dos SMART. Take the extra minute or two to clarify it, or else an entire week’s worth of energy, time, and effort could be wasted by not getting done what the team thought needed to be done.

10) Cascade messages

If a decision was made that affects other people, make sure to clarify who is going to tell them about it. And definitely don’t surprise them with a To Do without telling them about it! If this has ever happened to you, it’s a sign that a cascading message was missed entirely, or the owner of it didn’t follow through.

11) Rate the meeting and give feedback

Everyone in the room should rate the meeting from 1-10. If anyone gives it less than an 8, they should explain why, and suggest what could have been done to improve the meeting.

Most teams don’t give feedback if they rate the meeting 8, 9 or 10, but they should. The team needs to know what worked in today’s meeting that they need to do again next week. This emphasizes progress and learning throughout the team and allows the team to learn and grow together.

Recognize your accomplishments and celebrate them. It will help you to do them again and again when they’re acknowledged. It also will give the team more energy.

Learn from the most successful entrepreneurs and do an honest assessment of your leadership team meetings. Are your meetings as effective as you’d like them to be? Where can your team improve? At a minimum, use the Level 10 Meeting Agenda.

If you’re already using the agenda, pick one of these techniques and try it out. Don’t try to do them all at once because they’ll overwhelm your team. Get good at them one by one, and introduce the other techniques in future weekly meetings.

Next Steps

This article originally appeared on the GPS for Small Business blog on September 21, 2016.

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