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10 Tips for Effective Meetings

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Execution General Leadership

Imagine two different meetings:

  • A loosely run meeting that starts and ends late, continuously veers off topic, and lacks next step commitments
  • A tightly run meeting that respects everyone’s time, covers the items (and only the items) on the agenda, and closes with actionable next steps that ensure accountability

Which meeting would you rather attend? Which leader would you respect more? Which team would you expect achieves higher performance? Which type of meeting do you tend to run?

While most organizations have meetings that fall somewhere between the two examples we have laid out above, you can always learn how to lead tighter, more effective meetings. The tips below will get you started:


1. Don’t Meet

Consider this: Don’t meet. Ask yourself, “Is this meeting really necessary? Can we accomplish the same objectives through email updates and then use regular rhythm meetings (see below) for necessary collaboration and problem solving?”


2. The Way You Show Up In Meetings Matters

As a leader, your actions set the tone. Employees notice, your example spreads, and cultural habits get set. Consider every meeting an opportunity to “walk the talk” around meeting effectiveness.


3. Institutionalize Rhythm Meetings

At times, ad hoc meetings are necessary. However, the most effective leaders strive to have 90 percent of internal meetings on a regular recurring rhythm. These “structural meetings” are purposeful, recur on the same day and time, and include a consistent group of attendees. Others can be invited to join on an as-needed basis.


4. Don’t Scramble

Communicate the purpose and objectives of the meeting in advance and ensure attendees understand what preparation is expected. Use a written agenda, keep the meeting on track, and drive to results.


5. Schedule 50-Minute Meetings and Start and End On Time

Schedule 50-minute meetings within a 60-minute time block. Start and end on time, thus allowing for restroom breaks and on-time transitions to the next hour of meetings.


6. Use Ground Rules

Ground rules are basic, agreed upon guidelines that help attendees orient to meeting intentions and boundaries. Examples: phones off and laptops down, everyone participates, OK to call a time-out, etc.


7. Start Every Meeting With a Check-In

Leading effective meetings is both a science and an art. Do a quick check-in with attendees to identify if anyone is distracted, not feeling well, or stressed. Empathizing with others can positively impact the group dynamic and improve the productivity of the meeting.


8. Document Decisions and Action Items

Capture and date key decisions for ongoing reference to minimize future confusion and/or conflict. Ensure execution accountability by documenting all committed action items and assigning them to a person with a deliverable date.


9. Capture Open Loops and Parking Lot Items

Keep your meetings on track by capturing a running list of open loops (issues to be resolved before the close of the meeting) and parking lots items (issues outside the scope of the current meeting that need to be addressed in future meetings).


10. Implement a Closing Practice

Reserving five minutes at the end of every meeting for a closing practice can deepen relationships and boost morale. Invite attendees to “check out,” share a take-away, or even offer appreciations to others in the meeting.

Our suggestion is to try one of the tips above and see how it goes.  Learn from what goes well, adjust for what doesn’t meet your expectation.  As the practice gets institutionalized, incorporate another tip. At the end of the day, you have a responsibility, as a leader, to be intentional about the quality and productivity of your organization’s meetings.  

Effective Meeting practices and other Execution frameworks are taught in Q2 of our Integral Leadership Program and are the primary focus of our Advanced Leadership Program.  To learn more about the Stagen ILP program, visit the programs page or get in contact with us.