Running effective meetings

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Let’s be honest, if the meetings you run don’t make a difference, there’s no point in running them. Yet, I’ll bet most of the meetings you go to are rubbish, despite all the advice on how to run meetings that’s out there. So I looked at what’s going on in meetings and discovered that most of the problem comes down to a lack of thinking about introversion.

This page has many ideas that will help you, based on the book “Running meetings that make things happen:”, written to help you engage introverts and extroverts in your meetings. You might also choose to contact me to come and help you.

You need MORE meetings

Running effective meetings is one of the main ways to influence your team and improve business performance. Effective meetings generate engagement, ideas and buy in from your team, as well as ensuring all hear the same message and take action.

Meeting problems

You already know it! A third of most teams tune out during meetings and don’t engage effectively, because of the way the meetings are structured and managed.

How many pointless meetings have you been to?

That’s why helping leaders run effective meetings, is one of the most effective business improvement steps.

What’s an effective meeting?

  • the whole team engage in – both introvert and extroverts
  • the whole team are committed to the outcome of the meeting
  • the whole team take the relevant actions as a result of the meeting
  • the whole team are “singing from the same hymn sheet”
  • decisions taken are stronger, more resilient and take into account all your team’s knowledge, not just the louder people.

How to run effective meetings  – that make a difference

  1. Understand what’s going wrong in most meetings, and change it.
  2. Check that you’re engaging your whole team, introverts and extroverts. Most meetings disengage a third of the team.
  3. Have a clear (and relevant) purpose to all you meetings (and no, “catching up” isn’t a good enough reason. Remove everything that doesn’t support that one purpose
  4. Actively manage the meeting, or better still get somebody else to run the meeting (that way you can concentrate on the content, not the process).
  5. Get everybody to repeat back their actions from the meeting before it ends,
  6. State how you will follow up to check they’ve done what they said.

What’s going wrong in most meetings?

Whether you get this list from the internet, your experience or (in my case) by asking 200 people, you’ll come to similar conclusions about what’s going wrong in meetings.

  • The meeting has no clear purpose, far too many meetings are held for vague or even forgotten reasons.
  • The meeting isn’t structured to deliver on the purpose
  • The meeting alienates a third to a half of the people in the room (normally the introverts)
  • There’s no clear action and if there’s no action what was the point of meeting?
  • Many people realise that their actions won’t get followed up.

What would you add to this list and more importantly – what will you do to ensure it doesn’t happen to you?

A camel is a horse designed by committee – Sir Alec Issigonis

A camel is a horse designed by committee

What’s the purpose of the meeting?

There may be several reasons for a meeting. First consider why you’re asking people to come to a meeting, that shapes what you need to do to make the meeting less onerous. Is the meeting to:

  • tell people something so they get a common message? Chinese whispers are one of the worst things a business can suffer from, with different members of staff hearing different things. Passing a message through other people will create this problem, telling everybody one will reduce it. BUT, if the only purpose is to tell everybody the same thing – you don’t need everybody to all meet up! Save time, send an email, or a video.
  • ensure people all understand what you’re saying? Simply hearing the same message doesn’t mean that everybody interprets it in the same way, thus leading back to Chinese whispers. If you need everybody to have a shared understanding you need people to engage differently. But you may still be best not having a meeting, a simple message broadcast may still be more effective.
  • discuss an issue(s) in order to improve the way you resolve the issue? Now we move to a good reason for having a meeting, engaging people, sharing understanding and doing something differently as a result. Sharing understanding and doing something differently are key here, read on for more about sharing understanding. If your intent is to take the same action regardless, do you need the meeting?
  • all learn as a team? This sounds good and is basically the same as the point above. Read on for sharing understanding and learning together.
  • bring you together as a team? You want to move to team nirvana, where the whole team act as a team and use the meeting as part of this journey? Good idea, your business could be better off as a result and your business (as opposed to just individuals learning). Again sharing understanding and acting differently in future are key here.

Be honest with yourself first. If the reason is about you feeling important, you bending the team’s will to your own, or similar, then a meeting is not the best option.

A third to a half of the team alienated?

If you run your meetings like most facilitators you will have designed your meeting for extroverts and excluded or at least disincentivised the introverts in your team. There are differing estimations, but introverts could be 50% of your team, or more.

Introverts process information differently (internal processing v external processing).

Introverts don’t tend to like small talk and prefer more important and relevant discussion with fewer, closer, people. That implies they’re less likely to see meetings as relevant and certainly want to understand the importance of the meeting – before it begins. What can you send/ email/ explain beforehand? If they’re “onboard” before the meeting begins you have a new set of allies, the deep-thinking one

Introverts are unlikely to bother speaking up over others who keep talking, unless they feel incredibly strongly about the issue.

Introverts are de-energised by social gatherings, where extroverts are energised.

So, unless yo do something to keep the introverts in the room “in the meeting”, you will miss out on their different perspective on issues and (normally) more detailed approach to solutions.

You may also like to read:

Or listen to: 

An interview with Helene Jewell of the International Association of Facilitators on how to improve your meetings.

Running Meetings that make things happen

This book is available on Amazon and Kindle. It’s written to help you engage your whole team, introverts and extroverts, in the meetings you run. Click here for more information


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