More often than not, team members return to their desks following a meeting and quietly resume their work with little to no difference in direction or ambition. And why should they feel different? Meetings are often viewed as a necessary evil, a forced interruption.
But meetings can be a powerful tool when handled as a platform that helps achieve real goals. Hold your meetings accountable to their potential and capitalize on this recurring practice by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- Does the team understand the outcome of the meeting and how it impacts them?
- Is the team more prepared and empowered to take ownership of the workload?
- Does the team discuss conclusions and work to improve or build on them?
Meeting structure is clearly important, but you have to resist the temptation to sink all of your efforts into improving the meeting itself because it's what happens immediately after that will ultimately determine its effectiveness.
...it's what happens immediately after that will ultimately determine [the meeting's] effectiveness.
Summarize Your Meetings
Document the outcomes of important conversations and archive them in a place that team members can easily access. This will enable colleagues to accurately reflect on the meeting and draw conclusions about how it influences their work. Summarizing conversations that are as broad as company vision and as specific as weekly goals can aid in directing everyone towards a common goal.
Offer Avenues for Continued Conversation
Meetings may have a defined start and end time, but inspiration does not. If thoughts are only allowed to be expressed within that timeframe, it is quite possible that significantly influential thoughts will not be articulated well, if at all. By providing channels for continued conversation post-meetings, there will be less pressure on team members to broadcast every thought during meetings and encourage them to extend discussion.
Define Actionable Goals
Turn your conversations into real goals that can be achieved. Abstract synopses leave room for differing, and occasionally opposing, conclusions to form. Define discussion outcomes with clear assignments for specific people and, if no conclusion has been reached, arrange the next meeting. This creates momentum and aids in measuring tangible progress between meetings.
Work to extend the influence of your meetings beyond the conference room. Let meaningful conversations and tasks come from them and they will show their worth.