I was working with a couple of clients this week helping them think through a big meeting next month for their team. The usual suspects showed up: What outcomes do we want? Why are we having it? Do we really need to have it? How can it be as meaningful as possible? How much time do we have? What might come up that we need to be prepared to work with? Who needs to be there? You know... that stuff.
All great places to look. My clients were on track for a great meeting. When one of the outcomes they wanted to have came up as being something like: "Schedule the next team meeting to discuss how we want to have team meetings" my energy flinched just a tad. Hmmm... a meeting to plan meetings? When they started to talk about some of the issues that might come up due to the wrong people being in the wrong meetings recently, who might be irritated, and conflicts that might come out of that, my energy flinched just a bit again.
They'd planned an awesome, highly inspiring, very cool meeting for their team, one that would impact the future of the company, and were flirting with getting caught in the weeds with things that could easily be addressed up front through some pro-active engagement and leadership.
This is an easy place to fall into, some call these the "particles"... I think of these as the energy drainers that get us into the weeds and haze out the original intentions and positive energy that's possible in good meetings. While just particles, they're important to address (pro-actively) and can be effortlessly integrated in the planning process.
Which brings me to this post.
In addition to the basics that you might hold dear for your meetings, ie. having clear outcomes, an agenda, clear next steps, clear roles, accountability, and a way to communicate outcomes and key tidbits to those who need to know, but didn't need to be there OR couldn't... Here are some additional things to consider for leading (and participating in) your most productive, effective, and energizing meetings.
The "DOING" of the Meeting - Before...
- Have someone "own" the meeting, someone who will pull it all together and make sure the container is tight and clean. This serves everyone's mental energy on the team, as ONE person is the lead for making sure logistics are cared for, the right people are there, etc. It's just easier. It shouldn't always be the same person, rotate the role if it works for your group. Just make sure that someone is leading the logistics and planning of the meeting. You'll prevent a lot of snaffu's and energy drains that happen when this isn't in place.
- Make sure everyone is clear from the beginning (pre-meeting) about the context of the meeting and the time needed. Yes, this may seem obvious, but this can easily be overlooked when moving fast... especially in organizations or with teams who are meeting heavy. Ever been in one of those?
- Make sure that the RIGHT people are in the meeting and for the right reasons. Every person in that meeting will benefit from asking him/herself ahead of time "Do I really NEED to be in this meeting? What can I contribute? What value do I want to bring? What is my intention going into this meeting? Am I going for the right reasons?" (Lead even before you get to the meeting. Going because your ego wants you to or because you don't want to be "left out" are not the right reasons.)
- If there's pre-work that will support efficiency and intentionality beforehand, give it to them as far in advance as possible, and if applicable, a "please have back by" date. Sometimes you'll need to assimilate data before you're all together to make the best use of time - in that case, give folks the date you need it back by. If you don't need it done before, simple ask that they come prepared and ready to roll.
The "Doing" of the Meeting - During...
- At the actual meeting "get in front of it" as a team. Revisit the agenda and outcomes, the time agreement (finish on time or EARLY), clarify who's doing what (in terms of facilitation, taking notes to share, managing the "not now, later please, parking lot", etc.), and revisit or presence any agreements needed to help your team have the best experience possible. (These would be things like: no cell phones, no side bars, no gossip, assume good, etc.)
- Self-care as a core agenda item please. (Don't skip this one, I promise you it will rock your meeting in pleasant ways.) Make self-care during the meeting a foundational element regardless of how long the meeting is. Plan for good clean food; healthy snacks, a solid lunch without the processed stuff and white carbs, good protein, some nice big greens. Feed that brain and body well. Take breaks; every 90-120 minutes is optimal. Even 5 minutes to "get out there" and release all the charged energy and brain space taken up in the last 90-120 minutes. And hydrate; yes, please please please hydrate - this has a huge impact on performance and energy.
- Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate. And then appreciate some more. Before you close out your meeting, and even better integrated throughout, take some time to acknowledge people on the team, and the team as a whole, for things that have been done (in the meeting or out) that you appreciate. This is open to all members, for any reason - big or small, elaborate or mundane. The whole point is to get the energy humming and buzzing, and to have people feel seen. Yes. Magic.
The "Being" of the Meeting - Throughout the process; before, during, and after...
- Be intentional about your presence and the energy you bring into the meeting. We're always having an impact, physically, mentally, energetically. Your mood and "vibe" will "show up" in that room. Judgment, frustration, agitation, blame, etc.. even if your silent, people feel it. Gratitude, excitement, joy, ownership, accountability, collaboration, etc.... good news, same thing. So set an intention, before you even walk in to that room, of how you want to show up, what you want your impact to be, and how you want to be experienced. If you let it, this will guide you in your body language, tone of voice, presence, pacing, the way you look at people, everything... (Pssst, these are secret powers, just go with it.)
- Be intentional about what you want to get out of the meeting, and what you want to contribute. Know what you're working on ahead of time and come prepared to help things go right in creating the outcomes needed from this meeting. The mindset of contribution and gratitude and "let's help things move forward together" does wonders here.
- Watch your energy, presence, and body language throughout the meeting. Your facial expressions and posture say more than 1,000 words (even if they're not directed or meant towards the current situation). Awareness is 70% of the battle here. Diligence and action are the other 30%.
- Be curious. Be helpful. Assume good. If you're not sure, be curious. Always strive to be helpful. And when in doubt, assume good. There is most often (in my experience 98% of the time) a positive intention for what people come up with... even if it's not clear in the moment. Get curious, what's that positive intention? Seek to understand and you will build beautiful bridges together.
- Be present. Period. Yes, you've 8,000 things to do... don't we all? Put your phone away. Stop the multi-tasking. Be courteous and give folks your full attention. Stay present with your team, honor your agreements, stay intentional and on track, and you will save yourself a ton of mental, emotional, and physical energy... and likely time. Not to mention build credibility and trust. Oh ya...
BTW, don't limit this to just your team and biz meetings, I'd apply these to any meeting, any size, where you want to have impact, be productive, and let those you care about know it.
Happy meetings all!