Updated: Nov 17, 2022
Here are six things anyone can do in meetings to achieve better outcomes:
1. Define a goal and clear outcome for the meeting
The main reason people hate meetings is when they're pointless and purposeless. You're not always in the leadership role to set the meeting, but you can help by asking what the goal or outcome is of the meeting.
This question can be phrased something like, "What's the goal of today's meeting?"
2. Discuss previous meeting's action steps
Accountability is the most difficult trait for most teams to achieve. Meetings can be your key tool to increase accountability in your team, a simple way to do this is to have a cadence of accountability as discussed in the book The Four Disciplines of Execution.
Simply engage in the meeting by recommending everyone reports back on action steps from the last time you met. If no one remembers what you decided to do from the last meeting, then this is your problem.
3. Clarify action steps for each person out of the meeting
To overcome the previously mentioned issue where no one remembers what was decided last time, it's always helpful to finish a meeting by clearly articulating what action steps need to be taken to move forward - and who is responsible for each one.
Publishing this isn't even necessary. As discussed in The Four Disciplines of Execution, just getting people to verbally commit to doing their tasks before the next meeting, and then following up with them at the next meeting can make a massive difference in seeing people take ownership of their roles.
4. Listen to tone when people talk
Only 7% of communication is in the words, 38% is in the tone of the words. Contribute to meetings by listening to the tone of people's words. Pay attention to their tone and then contribute to discussions where you question people on what they really mean or ask for more information.
Basically, this is emotional intelligence and learning to do this is learning to be more emotionally intelligent. I find people are often unaware of what they really think and gently asking them to explain or expound on something is helpful for the meeting, for the team and for the other person.
5. Watch body language of others in the meeting
What's the other 55% of communication? It's body language. Contribute to meetings by going beyond words and tone and watching others in your meetings to see how they're really going and what they really mean.
Once again, if you're the leader this can help you to use meetings as a chance to build rapport with your team and find out what people really think.
Some of us need help to dig out what we really mean and as colleagues or leaders we can dig that out and make the meeting, team and each other better.
6. Use open-ended 'What...' and 'How...' questions
Finally, contribute to meetings by avoiding strong statements and politics where you just express your opinion.
Think of yourself as a facilitator in the meeting. How can you ask 'What?' and 'How?' questions to find out more from others in your team to help achieve more together.
There's really no downside to asking great what and how questions. Make sure they're thoughtful and you ask the right person at the right time, but you'll find it adds value to everyone in the meeting.
Plus, you're practising one of the most helpful skills any person can learn - using questions to engage others.
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