Run Effective Meetings – While leadership can be seen in many ways and places, often the most obvious day-to-day manifestation is how leaders run meetings. This rubric might not be fair and it may be overly simplistic, but good leaders run good meetings and bad leaders run bad meetings.
Yes, leadership and management are not the same; meetings tend to be a lot about management versus leadership but they’re closely aligned. And, yes, both are multifaceted and involve more than meetings. There are parts of a leader’s job description that happen behind closed doors, away from a conference room. Still, if an employee is asked whether a manager is a good leader, it’s not uncommon for the respondent to pause for a moment and reflect on how that person runs meetings.
Be a good leader
Is the leader someone who runs efficient and effective meetings? Does he or she run an engaging meeting? Are the right people present? Do people feel included in the meeting? Do they participate? Do you make it through the meeting agenda? Is attendees’ time respected? Does the meeting start and end on time? Does the group generate great, breakthrough ideas? Is there healthy debate and discussion? Does the leader manage to bring the group together and forge consensus? Does action really result or are decisions made?
The higher one rises in an organizational hierarchy, generally the more meetings that accrue to one’s calendar. (It’s the pound of flesh exacted by organizations.) Someone in the mailroom usually has fewer meetings than a mid-level manager; the CEO will then have more meeting demands than leaders further down. Indeed, by some accounts, managers and executives spend a quarter to a half of their time in meetings. And even when they are in meetings, they are missing other meetings because they are double- or triple-booked.
Are there too many meetings within organizations? Can the number of meetings be reduced? Should people be going to fewer meetings? Yes, this is true almost across the board. But until organizations figure out how to stop having meetings, there will be meetings—and probably a lot of them. And they will be run by managers, who will be judged by whether they run effective meetings or not.
Run effective meetings
When arguing for more effective meetings and improved meeting skills, the low-hanging rationale is to count up the number of hours spent—or wasted, as the case may be—in meetings, multiplying it by the hourly cost per employee. Adding up these numbers inevitably produces eye-popping results. Millions of dollars may be wasted per organization, perhaps billions of dollars in the aggregate. Not surprisingly, ineffective meetings are often cited as one of the biggest wastes of time, money and productivity within organizations. And, more than this, there is a less tangible but perhaps equally important metric: the drop in morale that results from attending bad meetings.
Yet, somewhat inexplicably, new managers (never mind veteran ones) rarely get any training in how to run effective meetings. Granted, this is certainly part of a larger epidemic where people are promoted into jobs without receiving appropriate training for the new role. If managers are lucky, they may get a brief training on the importance of writing agendas. And that’s it; go forth into the world to manage your team and good luck!
Given the outsized importance of meetings—on time, money and morale—and the positive impact even minimal training can have, organizations should prioritize equipping managers with meeting skills. If managers are responsible for leading meetings for hours every week, year after year, what are the long-term dividends if each of those meetings is only 10 percent more effective? What if each meeting is 30 or 50 percent better? That might sound like pie in the sky, but consider how many managers are currently running meetings without any training. Other skills that are integral to the job, be it balancing the books or writing code, are judiciously acquired over years of learning and training. Why leave managers to go it alone when it comes to this other central part of their jobs? And if you’re a manager—new or old—and your organization won’t provide meeting skills training, that investment in yourself should also pay dividends.