Running efficient meetings is an acquired skill. If you have no idea where to start, think about time spent in a meeting the same way you think about money--try to get more bang for your buck, and invest other peoples' time wisely so they get a nice return.
When it comes to all-staff meetings, most leaders have a different perspective than employees do, writes Costas Andriopoulos, a professor of innovation and strategy at the United Kingdom's Cardiff Business School, in Harvard Business Review:
"While many leaders see staff meetings as vital to the success of their organization, most employees see them as a painful waste of time," Andriopoulos writes in the Harvard Business Review. "As a result, employees arrive or leave whenever they wish; check their emails; doodle; or use the time to make to-do lists of all the things they're not getting done in your meeting. The outcome is a lethargic downward spiral."
To avoid putting people to sleep at your next all-hands meeting, avoid these four common mistakes.
1. Don't go in without an agenda.
Even though all your employees are sitting obediently waiting for you to talk at the monthly staff meeting, don't get comfortable. Make sure you know exactly what the meeting is going to be about. "The luxury of a recurring meeting lets busy leaders get their teams together without having to think of a reason to do so," Andriopoulos writes. "Yet each staff meeting should have a clear purpose: discuss a strategic issue, share information on business development activities, brainstorm on how to seize an opportunity or address a challenge, or to discuss options and make a decision. Participants then know what to expect and how to prepare." Once you have an objective, outline the agenda minute by minute and cut it down to only the most crucial items.
2. Don't let the usual suspects steal all the questions.
At most meetings, the same bold employees ask the bulk of the questions. Andriopoulos says you should not allow the "usual suspects [to] dominate the discussions, while others remain largely quiet." Make sure you hear from everyone. "Get serious about participants who talk more than their fair share. Tell them you appreciate their input but that their vociferousness discourages other people from participating," he writes. Ask direct questions of employees who are remaining silent and stress how important it is you get feedback from everyone.
3. Don't host impromptu debates.
Have the agenda sent out before the meeting so people know what's in store and don't waste time debating. "When leaders fail to guide discussants away from subjective perspectives, or participants haven't come prepared, people end up leaving the meeting without a clear course of action," Andriopoulos writes. "Encourage attendees to come prepared and present their arguments backed up by numbers and facts."
4. End with a course of action and the big picture.
"After all that talking, it's important that people know what to do next or they'll feel like the meeting was a waste of time. Set aside time at the end of each meeting to agree on an action plan and decide who is accountable for what," Andriopoulos writes. Make sure the minutes are being kept and all parties know what they are expected to do next. Before you finish, make sure you remind everyone why their work matters: "Wrap up the meeting by recognizing participants' hard work and reminding all attendees how their work (and the agreed-upon action items) contribute to each other's success and how they link to the bigger picture," he says.