Often enough, one might feel like their meetings don’t have anything to do with their role’s mandate. You feel like you’re wasting time because the agenda isn’t quite clear. Once the meeting ends, you feel like nothing was clearly decided and you feel like you’ve wasted a whole hour (possibly more). How can one structure better meetings that make sense for the team’s scope?

With communication becoming so much easier, catching up with a colleague on a project doesn’t have to be through a meeting. It can be through an app. How can you maintain the importance of meetings and add value to them?

It’s understandable to have occasional meetings outside the scope of your work, but having to sit for a whole afternoon through a company-wide mandated meeting that is outside of your scope can be frustrating and inundating. The ratio of such meetings to meetings that are related to the scope of your work must make sense. How can one structure better meetings that make sense for the team’s scope?

To structure better meetings, ask yourself these questions before attending or organising a meeting:

Is the work of the team defined?

This in itself will direct you toward the necessary type of meetings. Don’t be too quick with scheduling weekly meetings without ascertaining the scope of the team and the agenda. If the team has a large workload and is struggling to keep up, don’t force a meeting on them, just because it’s scheduled weekly. If it’s not absolutely necessary, give it a miss. Meetings should have to do with issues where the team’s input will impact the direction of the work or issue at hand.

Is the agenda set?

The agenda should be much like a compass to the conversation and will avoid the team from forgetting to discuss crucial points. Everyone should know why they’ve gathered and what the purpose of the meeting is. If leaders make sure to form and provide agenda before the meeting starts, there is no wasting time trying to get the point – because the point is clearly set. The rule should be: if we don’t know why we’re here, there is no reason for a meeting.

Who needs to be there?

The topics need to affect the entire team. Team meeting time is expensive. Think about it. You have a number of people who are sitting in on a meeting which they may or may not have anything to do with. Don’t waste people’s time. Meeting time should be reserved exclusively for issues that affect the whole team and need the team’s input and direction. Along with this question, ask yourself what the role of each participant is. The more clarity you provide from the outset, the more people are likely to contribute.

How long should the meeting take?

In the same way, you may budget and allocate financial resources, with meeting time you are allocating human resources. How much of your team’s time does this issue afford? Everyone in the meeting should be on time. Don’t be the person in charge who always makes their team wait. It drains the energy in the room. It’s not respectful to make someone wait. Time is money, after all. Moreover, employees will take your cues. If you’re in charge and you’re always late, clearly time is not important to you.

Just as importantly – end it on time. Define the time beforehand and allow enough time to end with an action plan. Don’t let meetings fizzle out with no clear output. The last few minutes in every meeting should be to discuss the next step and allow for overflow. Again, see who needs to be there for this overflow meeting (as it might not concern everyone) and set a date and time (including the end time). The meeting should end with a summary of who needs to act on what and when. Do not leave anything up in the air, as it may have just as well been ignored. There should be a clear answer to “Who will do what by when?”.

Structuring better meetings all boils down to breaking out of a one-size-fits-all approach and instead thinking about what works for your team. Instead, you’ll be left with meetings that make sense for your team. This will go a long way in setting up your meetings for success.

Do not control the conversation

If you’re running a meeting, once you set the agenda, you should allow for input from the rest of the team. Otherwise, you could have easily sent an email with what you had to say. It is understood that a meeting will allow for some form of discussion and back and forth. As a leader, your job is to listen and finally take a decision based on all that you’ve heard. That’s what you’ll get measured on, and not whether it was your idea, to begin with. Allow everyone to share their ideas, even across departments. No judgment on any idea. This enables your team and you never know what may come up. It is important to be clear from the outset that whilst you value their opinion, the final decision may not boil down to a democratic vote. There may be external factors and a broader context that will steer the decision. This does not mean that their input is not important.

Meetings are a crucial aspect of running a team, but every now and then revise them. Don’t set a meeting for the sake of it, or because it’s scheduled regularly. Always set a clear purpose to guide you to structure better meetings.

Share this article with a colleague… or your boss!

Do you have workplace insights you’d like to share with our followers? Submit your piece here