Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Leading a Better Meeting

We all want to learn how to lead a good meeting.  There is nothing more discouraging that wasting your time and energy on meetings that don’t accomplish what is needed or actually demotivate those who attend.  We’ve got to stop meeting like this!  Here’s some practical ideas for improving your “how to lead a meeting” skills.  Perhaps all will not be helpful, but look for one idea that you can begin to implement this week to make you a better leader.

Types of meetings  –  multi-day vs. one day team meetings  –  different objectives for both of these types of meetings

  1. For multi-day meetings, address the most important issues or most complex issues first before you lose energy or enthusiasm
  2. Consider multiparty video meetings instead of face-to-face for routine meetings
  • Use Skype, ooVoo, MegaMeeting, etc. for video meetings; many can handle up to 20 people with little cost
  • Get comfortable with the technology before the meeting so you don’t waste time during the meeting trying to make the connection work!
  • For large teams, remind all to be sensitive to each others need to contribute; don’t dominate the conversation; don’t remain silent; not everyone has to speak on every issue!
  • Be sensitive on when you, the team leader, weigh in with your opinion; for younger teams this can shut down discussion

3 Parts to Every Meeting  –  Business, Relationships, Development

  • Not all parts get equal weight at each meeting – use as guideline for setting the schedule and agenda
  • Maintain a spiritual tone  – devotions (let others share devotions, not just team leader)
  • When discussions are bogged down with no clear solution, stop and pray individually (listen to God, as well as speak); pray collectively; report back what God has said to the group
  • Some special meetings may get more emphasis  –  i.e. development or relationships
  • Be sensitive to time zone changes for those who travel to the meeting  –  make the agenda a short night the first night so all get adequate rest; no important topics on the first day when arriving from travel
  • Pace the meeting if it’s multi-day  –  allow time for breaks, rest, and recreation
  • No cell phone or text messaging, unless family emergency!  (create a “cell phone fine pool” for violators)
  • No email checking during the meeting!  –  multitasking diminishes focus and contribution!
  • No web surfing during a meeting!
  • Be sure to get input from the quieter personality types in discussions; don’t let a few dominate or set the tone for a discussion;  invite quieter ones to speak first sometimes
  • Be sensitive to women not contributing due to being outnumbered or intimidated by number of men
  • Consider having one or two additional seats at the meeting to invite guests (“bench members” who could be future team members)
  • If you have only one woman team member, invite another woman (make sure that these are leaders in their own right, not just selected for gender balance)

1. Business Items

  • Have a schedule for each day and share it with all before the meeting begins so they can plan how to use their free time wisely; this also allows them time to come well prepared to contribute at the meeting
  • Let them know which meals will be together and which are free for them to schedule
  • If meeting at a headquarters, be sure to recognize the need to interface with others at headquarters, thus allowing time for it in the meeting schedule
  • Have a written agenda with top priority items listed first that will usually require extended discussion
  • Request member’s input on additional agenda items before the meeting so you can decide whether to include them or handle these items in a different way
  • Think what must be done face-to-face and what can be done by other means
  • Have list of operational issues that are easy to use as short, time fillers – i.e. dates for next meeting, location of next meeting, etc.
  • Consider letting others lead the daily agenda so that you as the team leader can gain some better perspective on any discussion and the overall meeting tone
  • For multi-day meetings, consider having evenings free unless it’s a relationship oriented activity
  • Personnel decisions will always take more time than you think!  Allow plenty of time in the schedule.

2. Relationship Building

  • Trust is the key to a great team; never underestimate the power of trust!
  • Personal updates at the beginning of the meeting  –  set a time limit; pray for each other
  • What is shared in the meeting stays in the meeting, unless permission is given!
  • Consider creating a tradition that will bond members by sharing a common experience  –  i.e. revolving miniature golf trophy, game tournament, etc.
  • Just having meals together is not the only way to deepen relationships!
  • Be sensitive to gender differences on what builds relationships –  i.e. paintball wars; choosing which movie to watch together, etc.
  • Consider a special event where focus is primarily on deepening relationships
  • Bring spouses to the special event?
  • Be sensitive to financial costs, travel costs, babysitting needs, etc.
  • Be sensitive to differences in interest level  –  one person’s fun time is another’s torment!

3. Development of Team

  • As the team leader, you don’t have to do the development yourself, just lead them in development!
  • Plan your development ahead of time; what can you do together to grow as leaders?
  • Read and discuss an article; do a bible study together and discuss it; read a chapter in a book and discuss it
    • Assignments to be discussed at the meeting  –  i.e. an article or chapter from a book
    • Make sure the assignments are doable for busy leaders
    • Use devotions as development times  –  leadership lessons from the Word
    • Ask others to share the devotions  –  give them feedback on how to improve their sharing of the Word
    • Make special events both developmental and relationship oriented  –  i.e. Gettysburg, Alamo
    • Be sensitive to gender differences and interest levels

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4 thoughts on “Leading a Better Meeting

  1. Michael Visentine on said:

    Tom, love your insight and practical steps. One of the most helpful areas, is your explanation of guidelines (section before “1. Business Items”). Ground rules are essential as this gets expectation set and everyone on the same page. I would love to see future post go into greater detail on each section of this topic. Another good resource I have used for meetings is Patrick Lecioni’s TableGroup resources… http://www.tablegroup.com/advantagemodel/meetings/?tab=overview. Keep up the great post!

  2. I too like Patrick L’s material…find it practical and quickly applicable.

  3. Michael Visentine on said:

    As you mention that trust is key. Are there some tools you have used to help get a team down the road on trust? Thanks

    • I recently heard this quote from another leader: ” Trust arrives on foot, but leaves on horseback!” It takes time to build trust, but you can lose it very quickly. One of the best ways to build trust is by being appropriately transparent and vulnerable with those you lead. They will in turn sense that you are entrusting yourself to them, and will reciprocate. But it takes courage to take the initiative to “open the door” and invite them in.

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