Becoming intentional when leading meetings
Yesterday, one of my meetings ended 10 minutes early. While the meeting was scheduled for 30 min, we were done with the agenda and next steps in 20 minutes. I chose to gave “Let me give 10 minutes back to everyone” a pass because as a group we were efficient and collaborative and finished the discussion before time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot for us including the way we speak and our vocabulary. Apart from words like ‘herd-immunity’, ‘quarantine’, ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’ becoming part of the common language, some words and phrases have caught hold of the corporate world as well.
While I am a big fan of the trends that have emerged for different ways of working, be it remote or hybrid, I do feel that some of the new phrases that have emerged could be avoided!
Here are some of the ones that I think we could stop using during meetings:
Let’s wait for sometime for everyone to join
I learnt my lesson of punctuality the hard way. When I first came to the US for MBA at Stanford, some of us friends decided to meet for dinner at a particular time in the lobby of our residential complex. The first day I reached 15 minutes late, only to find that all of my classmates had already left for the restaurant. The next day, I reached ‘only 5 minutes late’ only to find a few people there but giving me cold looks. I soon understood that I needed to change myself and thankfully I did.
I am one of those who like to appreciate people for their punctuality, rather than wait for the ones who aren’t on time. We are all managing life and work together, and it's totally fine if people are late to meetings due to unavoidable circumstances. In that case, I try to use the time to set the tone for the meeting rather than just wait for the people to join.
Alternative: Thank you everyone for joining the meeting. While we are waiting for some of our colleagues to join, let’s start by writing down what we all expect to achieve from this meeting.
Let’s take this offline
To be honest, I am always confused about this one. Whenever somebody uses this sentence, I am always wondering if the intent is really to follow up on the topic, or is it a way to dismiss someone’s ideas, as the timeline here is indefinite. So, I would rather hear a definitive response which states how and when the topic should be taken up “offline”.
Alternative: This is a great point of discussion, but beyond the scope of this meeting. Let’s connect over e-mail/slack right after this meeting
OR Great point. Since this may take more time and probably needs just the two of us, why don’t I send you an invite today to discuss it in detail?
I am going to give 5 minutes back to you all
Many of us have used this popular phrase. In fact, I have myself used this many a times but I recently realized how by ‘giving people a few minutes back’ we actually undermine the efforts of the group.
I love it when a meeting ends early as it highlights that the meeting was efficient. But all of that accomplishment goes in vain when we end up celebrating the 5 minutes everyone got back. Rather, we should be celebrate the efficient discussion and the accomplishments of the meeting.
Alternative: This was a well organized discussion- thanks everyone for such an engaged participation
OR What an efficient meeting. Can’t wait to talk again!
Make Your Meetings Better
If you are looking for ways to make the most of your time during online and even in-person meetings then here are some tips that I follow:
Create an Inclusive Meeting Environment
Whether you are managing a global team or a local one, today’s workplaces are diverse and it's our responsibility as leaders to make them inclusive.
For example, some people might not be outspoken inherently. This might be because of their culture, language, gender or hierarchy among other reasons. As a leader, I would urge you to be sensitive to these issues and encourage people to speak. This might sometimes even mean to politely ask people to add to the conversation.
As a leader, you should watch out for negative behaviors like people cutting each other or not respecting someone’s viewpoints. Create a platform to speak as well as to actively listen during the meetings.
Time your Meetings
It is very important to maintain the schedule of your meetings- ending them on time is as important as starting them on time! Have an agenda before the meeting and try to stick to it. Many times, your colleagues may have other commitments, but if you are the leader they may hesitate to voice that out. Therefore, try not to extend a meeting unless really required and everyone’s available.
These are just some ways that I try to make the most of my time with the team. Tell me what are your meeting dos and don’ts.