Like in most situations, the more intentional you are the more likely you are to achieve the outcome you want. Being intentional about your meetings can take a number of forms:
- Agendas. Especially when there are a group of people for whom knowing what the focus of the meeting will be will give them a chance to gather they're thoughts or materials, and show up prepared. Agendas also have the hidden benefit of helping you stay on track during the meeting. There's a way in which the agenda starts to feel like a 3rd party arbiter of what's 'in bounds' and 'out of bounds' for the meeting so that if people are going off on tangents, it's easier to reign the conversation back in. Depending on the meeting, it can be useful to collaboratively create the agenda by giving others the chance to add topics they want to discuss. Also, setting standing agendas for recurring meetings is a relatively simple, high-leverage way to deliberately create a process for your team to ensure you have the right conversations that enable you to accomplish the right stuff week in and week out. (and yes, I'm co-founder of worklife.com
, which streamlines the process of creating/sharing agendas and running effective meetings :)
- Goals. Sometimes people write their agendas in the form of goals, but more often than not, agendas are a list of topics. It can be useful to get even more clear on what you'd like to achieve by asking the question: "What would we like to be different by the end of this meeting?" You can add the goals separately, or frame the agenda as a set of goals (e.g., instead of 'South America launch' as the agenda topic, write 'Decide whether to launch in South America, and agree on budget for marketing around the launch'). That way people know what the intended outcome is for discussing that particular topic. One of the reasons people get so frustrated in meetings is bc they think have different understanding of the goals (e.g., one person thinks the 'South America' discussion is to create the strategy and plan for launching and another thinks it's simply to decide go/no go and that they'll create the strategy some other time).
- Prep. For more strategic and decision-making meetings, the battle to make the the meeting is effective is won or lost before it starts. It can help to specify exactly what pre-work you want people to do or materials you want them to review before the conversation to make sure you're using your time together most effectively. Executives at Amazon famously spends the first 10 minutes of the meeting reviewing a one (or multi-) page document outlining the problem and key considerations.
- Experience. One of the highest leverage moves that almost no manager does is to get clear on the experience you want to create during the meeting. How do you want people to feel during the meeting and when they walk away? Excited, inspired, urgent, empowered? Spending just a minute or so setting your intentions for what you want people to experience can make a world of difference.
- How you show up. One of the critical factors in creating the experience you want for people is being intentional about how you show up. Want to be perceived as confident, relaxed, enthusiastic, courageous, authentic? Spend a minute setting your intentions for who you'e going to 'be' in the meeting and you'll notice a world of difference in how people relate to you and what you're able to accomplish.