Asking Questions Communication Conversations Leadership Team effectiveness

Consider these unorthodox tips for better meetings

How well do you manage the conversation during your meetings? Here are three valuable tips.

It’s been a few weeks since I read “More Time to Think.”

More Time to Think is the sequel to Time to Think. The first book addresses the theory behind creating a thinking environment culture. The second book is more of a practical how-to guide.

Both books are created on a scientifically justified premise that when companies can create a culture where each individual feels safe and encouraged to access, use and share their thinking, all performance indicators point in the right direction.

When leaders are not connected to the thoughts of their people, they won’t get the best possible results.

It’s amazing how many ideas and solutions people inside companies carry around without being asked or feeling compelled to share.

The solution to any problem is often already present.

If we would only ask. If we would only show interest. If we would only understand how important it is. For everyone.

But often, we, leaders, don’t ask.

No time. Ego. Hierarchy. Know it all. Incompetence.

Stuff like that.

This also applies to the meetings we lead. Most people think they have too many meetings. Most people believe these meetings could be significantly more effective and efficient. Most people will tell you it’s hard to get work done during regular office hours because of the number of meetings.

Most people do their thinking work away from the office, in the evening or during the weekend.


Why are meetings not productive?

Not well prepared. Unclear outcomes. Badly managed. No time to think. No possibility of sharing. Lots of tangents. Interruptions. Always the same people who speak. People that don’t need to be there. Rushed. Overloaded agendas.

You name it.

I won’t bother you here with lame meeting advice you can find anywhere else.

The essence of a good meeting is (1) being crystal clear about the outcomes you seek, (2) the audience you need to reach those outcomes, and (3) how you manage the conversation. 

1. When you’re unclear about the intended outcome, you will never have a great meeting. You’re not meeting for meeting’s sake. You’re meeting with a purpose. Be clear on that purpose and let people know in advance.
2. Only invite those who can and will contribute to reaching the outcome. No room fillers. No people should be there because of their position. It’s about the contribution they provide, not about name or position. 
3. Make sure all voices are heard. Introduce the topic in a structured way and then say, expect, and follow through on your wish to hear from every person in the room. Everyone gets time to think. Everyone gets time to speak their mind and make proposals. Don’t let people interrupt. Don’t let the same people always speak. Don’t allow tangents. Don’t let people off the hook and say, “I agree with ….” Just go around the room without interrupting and hear everyone out. Then summarize what you’ve heard and what actions you’re taking.

Then it’s time for some discussion if needed, but not sooner. It’s a process that feels a bit weird at the start. Because we’re so used to interrupting and digressing. But once people see how efficient and effective it is and how all voices get heard, they see the benefits. But you need to be strong in your facilitation. Most of my clients acknowledge they get more stuff discussed and done in about 25% of the time. That’s how much time we waste doing what we’ve always done.

These tips require you to prepare, select the right people, and be strong in your facilitation.

But that’s exactly what leadership is about. 

Your turn: How are your meetings?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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