As leaders we’ve all been in those frustrating situations where we host a meeting in order to drive a project forward, however, we fail to get the outcomes we were hoping to get.
In some cases, this might be because participants are not prepared, or don’t understand why they are there – leaving them susceptible to getting distracted by their mobile phones, or drifting in and out of the meeting without actually contributing.
Or on the flip side, sometimes we have cases where your team are almost ‘too excited’ to be there. Lots of discussions, talk and brainstorming happens, which can lead to participants going off on tangents. Before you know it, the meetings over and no real decisions have been made.
Years ago, the art of mastering meeting was often attributed to how well you structured different components of a meeting. Do you have an agenda? Is someone taking minutes? Is someone tracking action items throughout?
While these elements are all still useful, alone that solution is not enough.
Because focusing on the technical components of a meeting alone means that we are failing to recognise what makes a meeting great in the first place – aligned and engaged conversation.
No amount of minute taking or agenda setting will make up for a lack of engagement or care from your team.
Regardless of the meeting challenges you are facing, most of these can be solved by using a simple meeting framework that we have developed to help leaders in today’s corporate world.
This framework goes deeper than simply setting an effective agenda, but will instead empower you to inspire your team to be the best version of themselves in every moment, take ownership and leave the meeting with a sense of clarity around what they need to act and how this contributes to the bigger picture of the organisation.
Four Stages of a Mindful Meeting
Stage One: Before the Meeting
The key outcome of any meeting should be to reach conclusions and make decisions. In order to do this you need to consider two key things.
- Choose your participants wisely – Rather than inviting people for the sake of it, determine who actually needs to be in the room to contribute and be able to make the decisions you need.
- Provide participants with as much information possible in the lead-up – The reason many meetings are ineffective is that participants are underprepared. The meeting becomes too heavily focused on sharing information and giving updates, rather than discussing points of action and making decisions. This can be avoided by ensuring everyone is adequately briefed beforehand. In fact, this is something that Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, lives by. Prior to any meeting, he circulates an extensive memo that people are required to review in the lead up to or at the beginning of the meeting.
Stage 2: The Mindful Frame Up
Once the preparation has been done, it’s time to focus on how to actually host the meeting effectively.
For the sake of time, often leaders skip over this first vital step that should take place at the beginning of any meeting – framing up why it is important so that your team get why they are there, and how it contributes to your overall strategy as a business.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty detail in any meeting make sure you:
- Take a moment – breathe – connect – energise – focus – Use the beginning of a meeting as an opportunity to casually check in with your team – ask them how their weekend was or how the kids are going. While this conversation may not be relevant to the tasks at hand – and you may be tempted to jump straight into the crux of the meeting because of time constraints – taking a moment to connect with participants and show you care will actually help you engage people and make them feel more present.
- Clarify the ‘why’ for all participants – Before diving into the heart of the discussion make sure you clarify the overall purpose of the meeting, and why people are there. If possible, link the purpose of the meeting back to your overall company strategy and values.
- Address the ‘how’ and ‘what’ – This is an opportunity to briefly touch on how you will run the meeting, the outcomes you as a team need to reach and the expectations from people in the room.
Stage 3: The Mindful Middle
Now we’ve reached the crux of the meeting, this is you chance to make sure your team feel significant and unique, recognise growth and learning opportunities and help them see how they can personally contribute to the cause or project your are discussing.
To ensure your team remain actively engaged and present throughout this important stage of the meeting, remember to:
- Enable active listening – It’s easy to get sidetracked with our agenda in a meeting, and power through tasks and deliverables. This is the quickest way to lose the attention of participants. Instead remember to encourage active listening by maintaining eye contact, asking questions and including all team members in the conversation.
- Reengage anyone who ‘drifts out’ – Keep track of body language and behaviour of participants – if you notice someone disengaging or getting distracted from the meeting invite them back in by asking for their opinion or contribution to something.
Stage 4: The Mindful Close
How you round up a meeting will have a huge impact on whether what you discussed actually gets executed by your team. Even if you are pressed for time make sure everyone leaves with a sense of commitment and understanding of what they need to do next.
You can do this by:
- Summarising the meeting – Briefly, summarise why you held the meeting in the first place, and how this meeting links back to that – What decisions were made? How have you helped drive a particular initiative forward?
- Playing back the commitments made – Never end a meeting without reiterating the commitments made by each member of the team. What needs to be actioned as a result of this meeting? Who is taking ownership of specific elements? It’s imperative that everyone leaves the room with clarity around this if you want the meeting to have an impact
- Giving recognition – Don’t forget to recognise the contributions of people who attended the meeting – if someone had a great idea, or reported back some outstanding results, remember to praise this at the end. Small moments of recognition can have a lasting impact on employees, and encourage them to continue to take ownership and grow.
We wish you all the best implementing this framework into your next meeting. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know how it goes!