Back then a bright-eyed underling happened to ask me “How is it like being a Senior Manager?” – obviously wanting to know more about the glamour that accompanies the role.
My response happened to be matter of factly “Being a Manager is a boring job, one needs to do the same reviews and Meetings – repeatedly, through the weeks & months”.
Countless jokes and videos depict the enormous amount of time used up in Meetings globally. The mere mention stirs up in various people, emotions ranging from humour, excitement, dread and boredom. A famed American writer Carl Sandburg cited "Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you."
Distraction is a lead cause of many a wasted hour in management meetings. Preparing the individuals before and during the session will help the senior Manager with productive meetings, as defined herein.
1. Advance the agenda
Advance preparation always matters. Preparing your constituents with a pre-distributed agenda and outlining the decision elements, helps one guide the session effectively.
2. A small assemblage helps
The smaller the assemblage, the more you can focus on keeping them connected with the content you’re delivering. A personal connection is important for keeping away the spectators and engaging the participants.
3. Eliminate distractions
Needless to say, multi-tasking is energy and attention draining. Promise at the start that the meeting will focus on the topic at hand and will be time constrained to come to specific outcomes. Browsing on smart devices and answering emails will only divert attention and may cause the meeting to be scheduled again if inconclusive.
4. Have a standard Note taking template
Having a standard note taking template is good to set the meeting and action oriented culture. A good template will allow for a single sheet format with a:
a) Header to capture the Big idea,
b) the Body area to capture the itemised points of topic discussed and a
c) Footer that defines the action timeline and accountability assigned.
5. Productivity tools help
Technology helps increase productivity and share the learnings across platforms. I have found OneNote to be an effective note taking tool, and few others connected well with Evernote. Use a Mind mapping software for deeper business strategy level discussions to get a good visual feel of the issues and outcomes.
6. Time your meetings
Always start your meetings on time – this conveys a clear message to the participants that you mean business and respect other people’s time, including yours obviously. Dragging a meeting unnecessarily risks reflecting your sloppiness and indicates you are accepting towards sloppy results as well. Timing the meeting other than the generally practised one hour slots is a great way to highlight the time angle for e.g. setting a 50-minute meeting slot allows the participants to reflect on the discussion points and prepare for their next work schedule.
7. Make it engaging
For making it more engaging, indulge the attendees into question & answer rounds and team-building related activities to divert them from an unstimulating topic to a stimulating one.
8. Everyone is Accountable
Start with the end in mind i.e. define the decision elements that the meeting intends to arrive at. Towards the end of the session accountabilities are assigned and timelines defined. The meeting notes are circulated immediately in the template suggested above and people are on their way respecting your set standards for the meeting.
9. Define key Takeaways
Asking questions and accomplishing the key takeaways’ help with action items. Go around with questions like;
"What is your takeaway from this meeting?"
"What are the key messages from this meeting that you will share with your team?"
"Reconfirm your task accountability and timeline?"
As Steve Jobs said, "If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?"
Productive meetings are good and necessary for leaders. You could use this #9 pointer check list on your desk to set in motion a good work culture for your organisation, and have faith that you’ll be a better version of you!