How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

Have you ever sat in a meeting and saw your subordinates staring blankly during a team meeting? If that is the case, maybe they were not attentive because of how the meeting was led and conducted.

How can this be improved? The most important key is to work smart, not hard, and try to put yourself in their shoes. To help you see how this can be done practically, here are five secrets of leading team meetings in the most productive way.

1. Infuse positive vibes to the meeting

How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

Once everyone is huddled around the table, all intense and worried about how the meeting will go, enter your boardroom with a different energy. If the dress code is formal wear, go inside, take off the suit jacket and drape it around a chair, and then fold the sleeves. That simple act alone will make the entire mood change and less intense.

There are different ways that this can be done apart from the above-mentioned tip, including having a positive posture, a smile, and other body language markers.

Other team leaders, supervisors, managers, and executives find other innovative ways, such as opening up the meeting with a joke. When appropriate, you can play a short quiz or game that revolves around the task at hand.

In many cases, employees might be inattentive because of thinking of their own worries or where living conditions. Try to fill their space solely with positive vibes to get peak attentiveness for the meeting to succeed.

Sarah Hurst, the training manager, says that when a meeting is started in a serious and intense tone, attendees might be bored and lose focus easily. Whereas, making the mood lighter will make attendees keen on hearing what is next and thus have maximum participation.

2. Draft the agenda in an inquisitive manner

Another way to make a meeting productive is by grabbing the attendees’ attention before it even begins. When drafting the agenda, do not follow the standard formatting and structure of writing statements to introduce points. Instead, draft your agenda using questions to make all invited interested to hear what will be said.

That is contrary to writing statements leading to invitees jumping to conclusions by presuming what will be discussed.

Make it different and stand out for every meeting. Throw all of the customary templates out the window and carve a new path. Make it exciting and personalized for each meeting you are going to lead.

When all invitees walk in the room, they will have a glimpse idea of what is to be discussed but using inquisitive agendas spark interest. Maintain that same tone when leading the meeting and show excitement and continue fostering inquisitiveness.

A leading corporate trainer at twiftnews suggests that doing so will make your meetings much more productive because all in attendance will contribute. Do not wait until the meeting has started to incite this inquisitive mindset but begin when you are drafting the agenda. It will also make the meeting seem less intense but more lighthearted, which might reach the expectations you had in mind.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations. – Navy SEAL Creed

Most great leaders have a passion for building and leading an elite team. Who wants to lead a team based on mediocrity and moderation anyway? That would be a direct negative reflection on who? The leadership. But leading elite teams takes persistence and a consistent pursuit of personal and professional development. Constant personal reflection and taking action based on regular feedback.

I try to constantly study the art of leadership and have drawn many comparisons from my time in the Navy SEAL teams to my experiences as an entrepreneur leading a growing company. Here are five tips for leading an elite team.

Create an environment of leadership. At all levels. When you consider the caliber of team members you find in the military your first inclination might be to wonder how they recruit and develop such selflessness. Such an attitude of service and loyalty to the person to your right and left. But with further consideration, one will realize that it is more about the environment and culture that creates these attitudes and makes them a reality.

Elite teams have leaders at all levels. There are many successful organizations out there where the most senior leaders are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities. And because they are authorities, people do what they say. But those people would never truly follow them. And then there are people at the very bottom of the totem pole that are true leaders. Emergent leaders that take charge in the absence of orders and inspire those around them.

Make the team feel safe. Management and leadership are different disciplines.You cannot manage a team into combat. They must be led. It is hard to think that anyone would feel safe in a combat situation. It is all about trust and loyalty. When you trust the leadership and the team members to your right, left and rear, you have an overwhelming sense of comfort. When bullets start flying, politics go out the window. You are fighting to protect your teammates and nothing more.

Imagine if everyone on your team embodied this kind of philosophy? What an unwavering sense of loyalty that would create, and therefore a distinct competitive advantage over your competition. This starts at the top by senior leaders staying calm under pressure, communicating effectively, providing resources and removing obstacles. When the team feels safe and supported, they will do everything in their power to execute their responsibilities and go above and beyond to help achieve company goals.

Actively manage through adaptive change. This is critical in combat as in business. All businesses experience change, especially growing businesses in dynamic industries. Great leaders know when it’s time for change, even if it means reinventing your business. This can be a scary thing for the team and often things get worse before they get better.

Change management requires a few key things from the leadership. First, you need to communicate what the change is and why it is necessary for the company to continue to be successful. Second, you need to ensure that each team member regardless of rank or position understands how this change impacts them and what is required of them for productive implementation. Third, you need to make the team aware of what the leadership is doing in order to provide support and resources during the transitional period of change. And fourth, over communicate consistently during this time and get feedback. In the SEAL teams we say “pass the word.” Simply put, this means tell me what the hell is going on. Make sure to tell your team what the hell is going on.

Be a servant to your team. I recently finished reading Steven Pressfield’s historical fiction ‘The Afghan Campaign’ about Alexander the Great’s invasion of the Afghan kingdoms in 330 B.C. And Alexander, in all his ambition and arrogance, was at heart, the epitome of a true servant leader. He led from the front affording himself no additional comforts that his men didn’t have during their brutal trek through the Hindu Kush Mountains.

Great leaders embrace the concept of servant leadership asking nothing of their team they haven’t already done or aren’t willing to do themselves. And while you can’t always be in the trenches side-by-side with your team members, making a conscious effort to do so periodically goes a long way. Then, when you’re out there steering the ship they know you still care intimately about their specific roles in achieving the company’s vision.

Always eat last. Traditionally, in the military the officers eat last at chow time. This is a simple but impactful gesture of leadership. When you sacrifice for your team, they will sacrifice for you. It is the team that must execute on a daily basis and therefore it is imperative they have the resources to do so, even before you do.

Earlier I referenced the book ‘The Afghan Campaign.” When Alexander was leading forced marches through treacherous and unforgiving mountain conditions, eventually the food ran out. He could have easily had a personal supply train providing him with food and all the comforts of home, but he didn’t. When his men didn’t eat, neither did he. Yet he still projected strength and positivity despite seemingly impossible odds.

These five elements of leadership are not easy to execute on a consistent basis. It requires a daily focus and attention. Asking yourself, with each move and decision you make, am I being the best possible leader I can right now? If not, adjust accordingly.

How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

In a virtual setting, working hard may come with playing hard.

With more companies adopting flexible work-from-home policies, virtual meetings are quickly becoming a norm.

  • Leaders and team members alike should consider ways to make virtual meetings more meaningful and engaging.
  • Here are seven simple ideas to make your next video call more fun.

In a virtual setting, working hard may come with playing hard.

Job and life advice for young professionals. See more from Ascend here.

With companies like Google extending working from home until as late as 2021, and others like Twitter giving employees the option to continue working remotely indefinitely, virtual meetings are more likely to become the norm than the exception. With this new reality comes the need to start making these meetups more meaningful and fun. How can groups quickly identify easy ways to make their meetings more engaging?

Below are seven simple ideas from my new book where I discuss more than 75 team building activities for remote teams.

Regardless if you are the team lead or an individual contributor, try one of the following activities in one of your next meetings. All the activities below require no preparation and take less than 10 minutes to run.

1) Freeze! It is hard to have a video call go without someone’s screen freezing in an awkward position. Turn this sad reality into a game by trying to fool each other into thinking you’re frozen. Stop mid-sentence in an awkward position and hold it. If someone says, “Looks like John is frozen”— that is a point for you! Did your coworker’s screen freeze in an awkward position? Take a screen capture or a photo and keep a team collection of Best Awkward Freezes!

2) Word of the day. At the start of each meeting, pick a word of the day such as “cucumber.” See who can slip the word into the conversation without others noticing: “I really think that if we cucumber the system with a little extra investment, everything will work much faster.” If you catch someone using the word… yell, “word of the day!” (Bonus: It might also keep the team more focused on what is being said.)

3) Home office scavenger hunt. If all your people are working from home, organize a rapid-fire home office scavenger hunt. Come up with a list of three to five items using the list below for ideas. Tell everyone you are about to run a home scavenger hunt. Next mention an item and see who can get back to their computer with it the fastest. Reward one point for having an item and a bonus point for getting back first. Possible items:

  • Rosemary
  • Piece of athletic equipment
  • T-shirt of a band/from a concert
  • Baby picture
  • Old piece of tech (phone, Walkman, etc.)
  • An expired item of food from your pantry (bonus to the person with the most expired item.)
  • Currency from another country
  • Your favorite book

Quick Variation: Ask people to only find one item. If this is the case, it’s best to pick something that will spark conversation and sharing like a baby picture or a unique T-shirt. Afterwards, ask people to do a one-minute explanation of the item and the story behind it.

4) Moving troll. Have everyone on your team pick an object like a little troll or book they have in their home office. Before each call, have people move the object to a different location within the camera’s view. See who can spot the change. Another version is to have people turn off their cameras for 30 seconds and change one thing in their office. After, ask people to guess what change was made.

5) Have you ever (remote work themed). With a few tweaks, this typical party game can be a great way to trigger laughs on your virtual team. If you have never played Have You Ever, it’s pretty simple. One person asks a question to the group, for example, “Have you ever faked a bad connection to get off a conference call?”

Everyone who has done that thing has to hold up their hand in front of the camera! It is best if you have people create their own questions, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Gone to the bathroom while on a call?
  • Stopped paying attention then got asked a question and faked your answer?
  • Piled things under your desk and out of sight to look like your office was cleaner than it was?
  • Forgotten a call completely until the host called you?
  • Fallen asleep while others were talking?
  • Watched a full show on YouTube or Netflix while on a call?
  • Lied about having a bad signal to justify not using video because you were somewhere you were not supposed to be?
  • Done laundry or cooked a meal while on a call?

Pro Tip: If your platform allows you to turn cameras off and on easily, make this more visual by having people turn off their cameras, and then turn them back on if they have done that thing!

6) Tuned in. Have everyone write “Tuned In” on a piece of paper and keep on their desk. When you feel like people are not paying attention, hold the “Tuned In” sign up to your web cam. Last person to get their sign up is “it” and has to either answer a question about themselves or another challenge of your choosing! Not only will it bring attention but laughs as well!

7) Dress up day. Try Sunglasses Day, Fancy Hat, Black Tie, or Band T-Shirt Day. Bring out a few laughs by picking a fun dress code for your next meeting!

Pro Tip: Surprise your team by randomly showing up to a video call in costume!

When it comes to building relationships with your team, a little fun goes a long way.

In the UK alone, approximately 50% of adults in employment are working remotely. Although this number has skyrocketed this year due to social distancing, we can boldly say remote work is here to stay. A survey carried out at Buffer showed 99% of people would choose to work remotely for the rest of their careers, even if it was only part-time.

Therefore, if you are a team leader, you will have to master leading and managing remote teams in the most productive way. This article will show you five secrets you need to learn when working with remote teams.

Prepare an agenda for your meeting.

Firstly, before you call a remote team meeting, you need to prepare a meeting agenda. The reason is primarily that;

  • A program prepares meeting attendees for the meeting.
  • It will help attendees stay on track.
  • It will ensure everything is touched on.
  • A plan will reduce the time spent on non-essentials in the meeting.

Ensure that when preparing your team meeting agenda, you use questions rather than statements. By doing this, your meeting will be more of a conversation than a speech. Also, this prepares your team with ideas and solutions to the question asked on the list.

With the preparation aspect of this secret, it merely has to do with making sure the technology you are using for your meeting runs smoothly. This includes your remote communication tools, slides you might, etc. However, if this isn’t your forte, there are many custom writing service reviews like Online Writers Rating and Best Writers Online you can go to get this professionally created.

Video is a must

While this may seem like a no-brainer to you, about 22% of people rely more on conference calls using their mobile device. You must use video in your remote communication. The reason is this;

  • Video conferencing will help you read your team’s body language and facial expression.
  • Team members’ engagement increases when using video communication.
  • Teams get stronger as video communication mimics actual face-to-face meetings, which are in themselves great for building relationships.

Assign a virtual meeting facilitator

When working with remote teams, there needs to be a meeting facilitator for every virtual meeting you have. A meeting facilitator will help manage and guide the discussions in the virtual meeting. They will also help ensure that all team members get to speak on the points listed on the agenda.

Lastly, a virtual meeting facilitator should be someone who can fix simple technological questions.

Curate virtual team meetings

Curating virtual team meetings means setting basic rules for a team meeting. It encompasses setting rules for when to have a meeting, what to happen during your session, and so on.

For example, if you were to curate a virtual meeting, here are some points to consider;

  • If an email or a Slack message can suffice, don’t have a meeting.
  • If a time-bound plan wasn’t sent to attendees at least 24 hours before the meeting, there shouldn’t be a meeting.
  • Strictly follow the time set for the start and end of the meeting. So, if your meeting is to start by 8 AM, attendees should have set up and be seated at least 15 minutes prior.

By curating your remote communication, this will ensure that your virtual meeting is fast-paced and highly engaging for all members of the team.

Be intentional about your remote communication.

Finally, every virtual meeting you set needs to be intentional to keep people on track. For this kind of meeting, you should:

  • Leave space for silence. You shouldn’t expect your virtual meeting to be the same as a face to face meeting. Please note that there could be connectivity issues, and it is way easier to talk over people when you have a virtual meeting. So, by leaving space for silence when you say something or asking a question, allows other attendees to talk once they can.
  • Call attendees by name. Another essential thing to do in an intentional virtual meeting is to call attendees by name. By calling team members by name on your virtual meeting, you prompt them to speak out.
  • Be alert for nonverbal responses. During a face to face meeting, it is easy to spot non-verbal responses, but that’s not the case with virtual meetings. Depending on the platform you use, video quality may not be apparent, or there could be a delay in communication. However, by watching for non-verbal responses, which are a considerable part of our conversation, you can better understand attendees. For example, You can point out that team member A nodded his head, and ask them to confirm that they agree. This will help other attendees in the meeting understand what is going on.
  • Have an exit phrase. Having an exit phrase like ‘Let’s revisit that point,’ ‘Let’s continue the talk at another time,’ or even ‘that’s an interesting point, let’s get back to it later’ is an excellent way to keep meetings on track and on time. An exit phrase is necessary for every session you have because not everyone might agree on a course of action, and it’s not wise to drag a meeting on for longer so that people can agree on something. The more efficient way to go about this is to review the points with the various team members on a separate video chat afterward.

The Bottom Line

The truth of the matter is that there are different ways to lead any remote team meetings. And, with virtual meetings becoming the new normal for a lot of people, there is much to be said about adapting and conforming.

So, making use of all the above-listed secrets will help you run a successful remote meeting. It will also ensure that virtual meetings within your team don’t become something your team members dread, but instead something they look forward to.

Look at your virtual meetings as an avenue to connect, strategise, collaborate, and even celebrate team progress.

How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

What are your tips for making 1:1 meetings more productive?

To help you make 1:1 meetings more productive, we asked business leaders and HR professionals this question for their best tips. From starting with a personal wellness question to setting a hard “stop time,” there are several tips that may help you to make your 1:1 meetings more productive.

Here are nine tips to make 1:1 meetings more productive:

  • Send Out “Primer” Information
  • Spend Just As Much Time Preparing
  • Start With A Personal Or Wellness Question
  • Let Employees Lead The Conversation
  • Develop Meeting Rhythms
  • Use A Shared Doc
  • Ensure Both Parties Win
  • Have A Hard “Stop Time”
  • Get Clear With Your Next Steps

Send Out “Primer” Information

The number one thing that boosts the productivity of 1 to 1 meetings is sending out ‘primer’ information beforehand. Sending an email to the client or employee that outlines what will be discussed in the meeting, what they should do to prepare for it and if they have any preliminary questions is a very effective way to make the most of the time you share during the meeting.

Phoenix Knor’malle, MysticSense

Spend Just As Much Time Preparing

Especially when the calendar calls for back-to-back-to-back meetings, managers tend to just “show up” to 1:1 meetings without putting in the prep work. In order for an effective meeting to take place, I’ve found that a manager needs to spend just as much (or more) time preparing for the meeting as holding the meeting. A general rule I use is to spend 1:1 for 1:1 meetings. A one-hour meeting requires at least one hour of preparation thinking about the outcomes, objectives, and obstacles within a meeting. Putting in the prep work can be tough when time is limited, but making the time is just as important as showing up for the meeting.

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Start With A Personal Or Wellness Question

One of the most important factors to remember in these meetings is that you are both human beings. I know, duh, right? In reality, many of us look at 1:1 meetings as yet another task to check off our ‘to-do’ list. When sitting down, either in-person or via video, it’s helpful to start the meeting with a check-in of some kind. It could be a question about how someone is feeling, what they did the previous weekend, one thing going really well in their personal life, one thing going really well at work, or something completely off-the-wall like a quick conversation about a book they read that totally changed their perspective on life, or a song that they turn to for inspiration. Working to lower any artificial defenses before getting into the meat and potatoes of the conversation will help create a more meaningful and productive conversation.

Brian Mohr, anthym

Let Employees Lead The Conversation

The one thing that can make all of the difference in the effectiveness of 1:1 meetings is allowing the employee to lead the conversation. Great leaders will ask great open-ended questions to facilitate conversation and will then be great listeners and allow the employee to “drive” the conversation. 1″1’s are not discipline or counseling meetings. Their purpose is to build a stronger connection between the leader and their team member, and provide a safe environment in which the employee can express satisfaction or communicate issues. Make it the employee’s meeting, first and foremost.

Niki Ramirez, HR Answers

Develop Meeting Rhythms

To make 1 on 1 meetings more productive, the host of the meeting (most likely the manager) should develop meeting rhythms to ensure the meeting is productive and time-efficient. Meeting rhythms are a bit different than agendas, they are more free-flowing, but still are conducive to information sharing. Keeping it simple – “What did you accomplish last week?”, “What are your priorities for this week?” and “Where are you stuck?” are three good questions to ask during a 1 on 1 that can yield productive results.

Eric Mochnacz, Red Clover

Use A Shared Doc

For recurring meetings, I highly recommend using a shared doc where both people can build out the agenda each week. By putting everything in a Google Doc (or similar collaborative document), it means you’ll cover everything you meant to go over. It also makes it easy to review what happened in previous meetings. And if the meeting is with a manager or direct report, it creates a point of reference when it comes time for self-evaluations or performance reviews.

Elliot Brown, OnPay

Ensure Both Parties Win

When holding these types of meetings, it must be remembered that the meeting must be a combined effort that turns into a win/win for both parties. Even if the meeting consists of a manager/employee, both parties share in the overall productivity and success of the meeting. The most effective way to accomplish this is by having a defined agenda to which both parties contribute to. Each party must bring to the table a healthy list of topics and questions that can ensure the success of this 1:1 interaction. Neither managers nor employees are mind readers, and without a carefully thought out agenda, productivity during the meeting will suffer, and honestly, little good can come from it.

Ronald Kubitz, Forms+Surfaces

Have A Hard “Stop Time”

When meeting with clients, employees, or partners, have a hard “stop-time” that you do your best not to go over. If the end time is nearing and you still have several points to go over, kindly ask if they would be okay running 15 minutes over the scheduled stop time. If yes, then continue. If not, wrap up and send anything else in an email. Sticking to a designated time lets the person you are meeting with know that you value their time.

Jon Schneider, Recruiterie

Get Clear With Your Next Steps

Get clear with your next steps. Once you’re done with the meeting, what will you do with the information you received? A lot of people say, ‘Knowledge is power.’ For me, knowledge is just knowledge. Knowledge combined with actions is power. It’s what you decide to do with the knowledge you gained from the meeting that will dictate whether you had a successful meeting or not.

Phillip A. Lew, C9 Staff

Brett Farmiloe is the Founder and CEO – and currently CHRO – of a digital marketing company that ranks really well on Google. Search “digital marketing company,” and you’ll see Markitors. Brett has also been a keynote speaker at several state SHRM conferences around the topic of employee engagement.

Rose Leadem

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Hours and hours are wasted every week on unproductive meetings. And that’s time that could be spent on other important business initiatives to better move a company forward. Because it’s not only an employee’s time that’s wasted but an employer’s money too. According to research, $25 million of company money are lost every day on unproductive meetings, resulting in a whopping total of $37 billion a year.

Of course many meetings are necessary in order to set and achieve goals, and get things done so you can’t get rid of them altogether. However, there are some ways to make them shorter, more productive and to-the-point.

To learn how, here are nine tips for highly productive meetings.

If you’re the one spearheading a meeting, it’s important to make it very clear what exactly that meeting is going to entail, and to share these important details with the rest of the attendees. By making known what exactly the meeting’s main points are, people will know whether their attendance is necessary or not and what they should have prepared for it too. If everyone is prepared, then the meeting will be smooth and time-effective. To achieve this, create an agenda beforehand detailing what will be covered, how much time it will take and your goals, and email this out to everyone at least 24 hours before the meeting so people can prepare if they need to.

On average, people spend 31 hours in unproductive meetings every month. That’s precious time that could be spent on other projects and important work. Therefore, to reduce this number, make sure that you only invite the necessary people needed at a meeting in order to achieve its initiatives and goals. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a rule of thumb called the “two pizza rule,” which is to only invite the amount of people to a meeting that two pizzas can feed.

After setting (and sending) the agenda and inviting the necessary attendees, make sure everyone’s roles are clearly defined, especially the meeting’s leader. It’s incredibly important to have a distinct team leader who will be conducting the meeting and making sure goals get achieved. Other important roles to assign include a note-taker, a time-keeper and a facilitator.

To make sure no time is wasted and meetings don’t drag on, be incredibly strict on time. And that goes all the way back to agenda-setting before the meeting. When setting your agenda, write out exactly what you’ll be talking about and how much time will be spent on each topic. Using this information, calculate a total of exactly how much time will be needed for the entire meeting. As a tip: try to keep them around 18 minutes. Research shows that people’s attention spans significantly drop any longer than that.

It’s important to keep people on their toes, especially in meetings. According to research, standing meetings are more creative, collaborative and productive than sitting ones.

Note-taking during meetings is incredibly important, not only for the meeting’s leader but for every member. And instead of using laptops, which can often serve as distractions, try taking notes by hand. According to research, typing notes can result in mindlessly writing anything that you hear, while writing notes by hand makes sure people are accurately listening and choosing the most important things to write down.

Today, smartphones can serve as major distractions. Whether it’s surfing the web or scrolling through Instagram, enforce a “no cell phones” rule to make sure everyone is fully engaged and attentive. Just take it from the White House: when President Obama was in office, staffers and meeting attendees wrote their names on sticky notes, which they attached to their phones and left in a basket at the beginning of Cabinet meetings.

Every attendee should leave a meeting knowing exactly what is needed from them. Apple’s Steve Jobs called these “DRIs,” which stood for “Directly Responsible Individuals.” By assigning tasks and responsibilities to people and laying out concise understandings of what’s expected of them, productivity will be boosted and meeting goals will be much easier to achieve.

At the end of every meeting, the meeting leader should send out a follow up email outlining everything that was discussed. Send this out on the same day that a meeting took place, and make sure every meeting attendee receives it. Typically, it should include what was covered, tasks given to various members and what next steps are.

How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

What are your tips for making 1:1 meetings more productive?

To help you make 1:1 meetings more productive, we asked business leaders and HR professionals this question for their best tips. From starting with a personal wellness question to setting a hard “stop time,” there are several tips that may help you to make your 1:1 meetings more productive.

Here are nine tips to make 1:1 meetings more productive:

  • Send Out “Primer” Information
  • Spend Just As Much Time Preparing
  • Start With A Personal Or Wellness Question
  • Let Employees Lead The Conversation
  • Develop Meeting Rhythms
  • Use A Shared Doc
  • Ensure Both Parties Win
  • Have A Hard “Stop Time”
  • Get Clear With Your Next Steps

Send Out “Primer” Information

The number one thing that boosts the productivity of 1 to 1 meetings is sending out ‘primer’ information beforehand. Sending an email to the client or employee that outlines what will be discussed in the meeting, what they should do to prepare for it and if they have any preliminary questions is a very effective way to make the most of the time you share during the meeting.

Phoenix Knor’malle, MysticSense

Spend Just As Much Time Preparing

Especially when the calendar calls for back-to-back-to-back meetings, managers tend to just “show up” to 1:1 meetings without putting in the prep work. In order for an effective meeting to take place, I’ve found that a manager needs to spend just as much (or more) time preparing for the meeting as holding the meeting. A general rule I use is to spend 1:1 for 1:1 meetings. A one-hour meeting requires at least one hour of preparation thinking about the outcomes, objectives, and obstacles within a meeting. Putting in the prep work can be tough when time is limited, but making the time is just as important as showing up for the meeting.

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

Start With A Personal Or Wellness Question

One of the most important factors to remember in these meetings is that you are both human beings. I know, duh, right? In reality, many of us look at 1:1 meetings as yet another task to check off our ‘to-do’ list. When sitting down, either in-person or via video, it’s helpful to start the meeting with a check-in of some kind. It could be a question about how someone is feeling, what they did the previous weekend, one thing going really well in their personal life, one thing going really well at work, or something completely off-the-wall like a quick conversation about a book they read that totally changed their perspective on life, or a song that they turn to for inspiration. Working to lower any artificial defenses before getting into the meat and potatoes of the conversation will help create a more meaningful and productive conversation.

Brian Mohr, anthym

Let Employees Lead The Conversation

The one thing that can make all of the difference in the effectiveness of 1:1 meetings is allowing the employee to lead the conversation. Great leaders will ask great open-ended questions to facilitate conversation and will then be great listeners and allow the employee to “drive” the conversation. 1″1’s are not discipline or counseling meetings. Their purpose is to build a stronger connection between the leader and their team member, and provide a safe environment in which the employee can express satisfaction or communicate issues. Make it the employee’s meeting, first and foremost.

Niki Ramirez, HR Answers

Develop Meeting Rhythms

To make 1 on 1 meetings more productive, the host of the meeting (most likely the manager) should develop meeting rhythms to ensure the meeting is productive and time-efficient. Meeting rhythms are a bit different than agendas, they are more free-flowing, but still are conducive to information sharing. Keeping it simple – “What did you accomplish last week?”, “What are your priorities for this week?” and “Where are you stuck?” are three good questions to ask during a 1 on 1 that can yield productive results.

Eric Mochnacz, Red Clover

Use A Shared Doc

For recurring meetings, I highly recommend using a shared doc where both people can build out the agenda each week. By putting everything in a Google Doc (or similar collaborative document), it means you’ll cover everything you meant to go over. It also makes it easy to review what happened in previous meetings. And if the meeting is with a manager or direct report, it creates a point of reference when it comes time for self-evaluations or performance reviews.

Elliot Brown, OnPay

Ensure Both Parties Win

When holding these types of meetings, it must be remembered that the meeting must be a combined effort that turns into a win/win for both parties. Even if the meeting consists of a manager/employee, both parties share in the overall productivity and success of the meeting. The most effective way to accomplish this is by having a defined agenda to which both parties contribute to. Each party must bring to the table a healthy list of topics and questions that can ensure the success of this 1:1 interaction. Neither managers nor employees are mind readers, and without a carefully thought out agenda, productivity during the meeting will suffer, and honestly, little good can come from it.

Ronald Kubitz, Forms+Surfaces

Have A Hard “Stop Time”

When meeting with clients, employees, or partners, have a hard “stop-time” that you do your best not to go over. If the end time is nearing and you still have several points to go over, kindly ask if they would be okay running 15 minutes over the scheduled stop time. If yes, then continue. If not, wrap up and send anything else in an email. Sticking to a designated time lets the person you are meeting with know that you value their time.

Jon Schneider, Recruiterie

Get Clear With Your Next Steps

Get clear with your next steps. Once you’re done with the meeting, what will you do with the information you received? A lot of people say, ‘Knowledge is power.’ For me, knowledge is just knowledge. Knowledge combined with actions is power. It’s what you decide to do with the knowledge you gained from the meeting that will dictate whether you had a successful meeting or not.

Phillip A. Lew, C9 Staff

Brett Farmiloe is the Founder and CEO – and currently CHRO – of a digital marketing company that ranks really well on Google. Search “digital marketing company,” and you’ll see Markitors. Brett has also been a keynote speaker at several state SHRM conferences around the topic of employee engagement.

How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

Why do meetings have such a bad rap? Because too many of them are poorly organized, overly long, and rudderless–drifting this way and that according to the moods of the dominant personalities in the room.

Even managerial and executive meetings, which should be more effective based on the amount of experience the attendees have collectively logged, are often more painful than productive. And these are meeting professionals. They (we) should know better.

Having both facilitated and participated in thousands of meetings in my career, with countless more looming in my future, I’d like to share my seven best tips for leading your meetings out of meeting hell and into–well, nirvana may be aiming too high. Let’s just start with keeping your weekly budget huddle out of the everlasting abyss and then go from there.

1. State the Objective Clearly

Are you generating ideas? Trying to reach a decision? Making plans? Reporting status updates? A bit of each? No matter what the underlying goal of your meeting is, make sure it’s clearly stated up front to all participants.

It’s not easy to facilitate a productive conversation when half the room thinks they’re brainstorming and the other half is trying to make decisions. The brainstormers will feel frustrated and shut down by the judgmental comments, and the decision makers will become impatient with the seemingly irrelevant ideas that are distracting from forward progress.

Brainstorming versus decision-making conflicts are a fairly common meeting hazard, even if you previously announced the meeting’s objective. Keep an eye out for this kind of exchange, and steer the conversation as needed. Try, “Those are great ideas, but the brainstorming phase has passed. We’re here to make decisions now.” Or, “When we’re brainstorming, all ideas are good enough to make it onto the whiteboard. For the next 30-minutes, this is a no-judgment zone. Decision making comes later.”

2. Respect the Ritual of Recurring Meetings

I’m a big believer that there’s a certain amount of ritual to meetings, and that the routine itself serves an important purpose. As much as people complain about being overly scheduled, with too little time for their “real jobs,” they do appreciate the chance to sync up on the same issues in the same way on a predictable basis.

Once you’ve established the protocols of a particular meeting type, you can quickly dive in to the real issues, rather than wasting time orienting everyone to a new agenda. Following a routine does not mean that equal time must be allotted for all topics every week, or that everyone present needs to report progress or provide updates. I advise following a repeatable structure for recurring meetings, while also allowing for slight variations–like skipping stagnant topics and rotating who goes first–in order to prioritize the most relevant and important issues.

3. Ask for Input a Day Ahead

Ask meeting attendees what’s top of mind for them at least a day ahead, before you complete the agenda. This not only encourages team members to start mentally preparing, it also gives you advance notice of what issues might be percolating inside the different individuals, departments, or teams.

Just remember that everyone has different and often competing priorities. As the meeting leader or facilitator, you get to rank those priorities for the team at large. Distinguish between the issues that can be handled by a smaller group offline and those that need the full attention of everyone present.

4. Plan for Structure and Flexibility

I always plan for a structured portion of the meeting and a more flexible portion toward the end. Depending on the meeting type, I’m willing for half or more of the allotted time to be open-ended. Personally, I’d rather follow the energy of the people in the room than rigidly adhere to an agenda just because it’s been typed and distributed. A sheet of universal, white, 20-lb. paper does not equal a stone tablet.

I don’t have any problem vamping on an idea or shifting gears if that’s where the enthusiasm is heading. I realize that this mindset can be frustrating to people who are more rigid in their style (see item No. 6), and I also realize that it’s impossible to please everyone (see No. 7). However, the willingness to shut down rat-hole discussions that stray too far from the central purpose of the meeting–no matter how much energy they inspire–is also essential.

5. You’re the Leader, So Try Leading

You know how frustrating it is to sit through a meeting without a proactive, engaged leader. When you’re in charge, think of yourself as the meeting’s cruise director. It’s your job to keep everyone apprised of where you’re going and when. If there’s a printed agenda, you need to both steer everyone toward the docket and clearly announce any departures from it. “Oh, it looks like we’ll be skipping right past X and moving on to Y. Jennifer, you’re up.”

If the conversation is flowing in a different–and more productive–direction than your agenda allows for, don’t be afraid to toss it overboard (see No. 4). Just tell everyone that’s what’s happening. Otherwise, you’ll lose people in the incongruity between the expectations you’ve set for them and the reality around them.

6. Don’t End Prematurely

No one likes a meeting that drags on and on, far beyond the point of productivity and team engagement. But I believe it can be equally frustrating to end prematurely just because time is up. “Yeah, we almost solved world hunger, but Bill has an 11:00, so let’s pack it up.”

If there’s great momentum in the room, I’m OK with letting a meeting go over by 10 minutes or so, as long as it doesn’t happen every week. If Bill really can’t miss that 11:00, I’ll do a time-check at 10:55 and excuse those who have to jet, keeping the relevant parties until they either wrap up the discussion or schedule a follow-up while everyone is still present and able to compare their calendars.

7. Don’t Try to Please Everyone

Your attendees often have competing priorities and points of view, and there’s no way to please everyone, all the time. You can’t ensure that all parties get equal time, equal treatment, and equal accolades, so don’t even try. You have your own leadership style and meeting preferences. Own them. If Bill doesn’t like it, he can do things differently when he is in charge.

Leading productive meetings is an overlooked skill, but it doesn’t have to be a thankless job. These seven tips may not result in gushing compliments over how pleasurable your latest executive meeting was. But if you can use them to steer your team out of meeting purgatory for an hour every other Wednesday, that’s still something to be proud of.

How to lead team meetings in the most productive way

Why do meetings have such a bad rap? Because too many of them are poorly organized, overly long, and rudderless–drifting this way and that according to the moods of the dominant personalities in the room.

Even managerial and executive meetings, which should be more effective based on the amount of experience the attendees have collectively logged, are often more painful than productive. And these are meeting professionals. They (we) should know better.

Having both facilitated and participated in thousands of meetings in my career, with countless more looming in my future, I’d like to share my seven best tips for leading your meetings out of meeting hell and into–well, nirvana may be aiming too high. Let’s just start with keeping your weekly budget huddle out of the everlasting abyss and then go from there.

1. State the Objective Clearly

Are you generating ideas? Trying to reach a decision? Making plans? Reporting status updates? A bit of each? No matter what the underlying goal of your meeting is, make sure it’s clearly stated up front to all participants.

It’s not easy to facilitate a productive conversation when half the room thinks they’re brainstorming and the other half is trying to make decisions. The brainstormers will feel frustrated and shut down by the judgmental comments, and the decision makers will become impatient with the seemingly irrelevant ideas that are distracting from forward progress.

Brainstorming versus decision-making conflicts are a fairly common meeting hazard, even if you previously announced the meeting’s objective. Keep an eye out for this kind of exchange, and steer the conversation as needed. Try, “Those are great ideas, but the brainstorming phase has passed. We’re here to make decisions now.” Or, “When we’re brainstorming, all ideas are good enough to make it onto the whiteboard. For the next 30-minutes, this is a no-judgment zone. Decision making comes later.”

2. Respect the Ritual of Recurring Meetings

I’m a big believer that there’s a certain amount of ritual to meetings, and that the routine itself serves an important purpose. As much as people complain about being overly scheduled, with too little time for their “real jobs,” they do appreciate the chance to sync up on the same issues in the same way on a predictable basis.

Once you’ve established the protocols of a particular meeting type, you can quickly dive in to the real issues, rather than wasting time orienting everyone to a new agenda. Following a routine does not mean that equal time must be allotted for all topics every week, or that everyone present needs to report progress or provide updates. I advise following a repeatable structure for recurring meetings, while also allowing for slight variations–like skipping stagnant topics and rotating who goes first–in order to prioritize the most relevant and important issues.

3. Ask for Input a Day Ahead

Ask meeting attendees what’s top of mind for them at least a day ahead, before you complete the agenda. This not only encourages team members to start mentally preparing, it also gives you advance notice of what issues might be percolating inside the different individuals, departments, or teams.

Just remember that everyone has different and often competing priorities. As the meeting leader or facilitator, you get to rank those priorities for the team at large. Distinguish between the issues that can be handled by a smaller group offline and those that need the full attention of everyone present.

4. Plan for Structure and Flexibility

I always plan for a structured portion of the meeting and a more flexible portion toward the end. Depending on the meeting type, I’m willing for half or more of the allotted time to be open-ended. Personally, I’d rather follow the energy of the people in the room than rigidly adhere to an agenda just because it’s been typed and distributed. A sheet of universal, white, 20-lb. paper does not equal a stone tablet.

I don’t have any problem vamping on an idea or shifting gears if that’s where the enthusiasm is heading. I realize that this mindset can be frustrating to people who are more rigid in their style (see item No. 6), and I also realize that it’s impossible to please everyone (see No. 7). However, the willingness to shut down rat-hole discussions that stray too far from the central purpose of the meeting–no matter how much energy they inspire–is also essential.

5. You’re the Leader, So Try Leading

You know how frustrating it is to sit through a meeting without a proactive, engaged leader. When you’re in charge, think of yourself as the meeting’s cruise director. It’s your job to keep everyone apprised of where you’re going and when. If there’s a printed agenda, you need to both steer everyone toward the docket and clearly announce any departures from it. “Oh, it looks like we’ll be skipping right past X and moving on to Y. Jennifer, you’re up.”

If the conversation is flowing in a different–and more productive–direction than your agenda allows for, don’t be afraid to toss it overboard (see No. 4). Just tell everyone that’s what’s happening. Otherwise, you’ll lose people in the incongruity between the expectations you’ve set for them and the reality around them.

6. Don’t End Prematurely

No one likes a meeting that drags on and on, far beyond the point of productivity and team engagement. But I believe it can be equally frustrating to end prematurely just because time is up. “Yeah, we almost solved world hunger, but Bill has an 11:00, so let’s pack it up.”

If there’s great momentum in the room, I’m OK with letting a meeting go over by 10 minutes or so, as long as it doesn’t happen every week. If Bill really can’t miss that 11:00, I’ll do a time-check at 10:55 and excuse those who have to jet, keeping the relevant parties until they either wrap up the discussion or schedule a follow-up while everyone is still present and able to compare their calendars.

7. Don’t Try to Please Everyone

Your attendees often have competing priorities and points of view, and there’s no way to please everyone, all the time. You can’t ensure that all parties get equal time, equal treatment, and equal accolades, so don’t even try. You have your own leadership style and meeting preferences. Own them. If Bill doesn’t like it, he can do things differently when he is in charge.

Leading productive meetings is an overlooked skill, but it doesn’t have to be a thankless job. These seven tips may not result in gushing compliments over how pleasurable your latest executive meeting was. But if you can use them to steer your team out of meeting purgatory for an hour every other Wednesday, that’s still something to be proud of.