For project managers, meetings are an important part of the project management process and they critical in the overall success of your project. Effective team meetings often provide the best forum for discussing ideas, strategy, best practices and collaboration improvements. As a project manager, learning to lead an effective meeting is a crucial skill to master. If you need to enhance your meeting leadership skills, consider the following blueprint.
Do we need to meet?
One of the biggest offenses of poor meeting leadership is scheduling a meeting without a clear agenda. Given how busy all employees are and the high cost of people’s time, a meeting must be productive in order to justify the costs. Before calling any meeting, be clear that bringing people together is necessary.
To help determine if a meeting makes sense, ask yourself “Why am I calling this meeting?” If it is simply to push out information, you may be able to accomplish the same thing with a conference call or via e-mail. Also remember to beware of scheduling standing meetings if the project does not call for it. By scheduling only necessary meetings, you build a brand of a efficient leader who respects other individuals' time.
Create a Clear Agenda
Once you have determined a meeting is necessary, take the time to create a clear agenda and share it in advance of the meeting. Include the agenda in your meeting request so all members can prepare. A strong agenda includes:
- Date, time and duration of the meeting
- Location, dial-in and video conferencing information
- A brief explanation of the meeting’s purpose
- List of topics to be addressed with an estimated duration for each topic
- Buffer space for feedback and open discussion
The kick off is an opportunity to set the tone for the entire meeting and for your particular meeting leadership style. It is important to welcome everyone to the meeting, restate the purpose and review the agenda.
Openings should include introductions if members don’t all know each other. For established teams, think about a quick way to have everyone “check-in” to the meeting. This helps re-focus the attendees energy and attention onto the meeting at hand.
If you are running the meeting, make sure to assign a note taker and time keeper for the meeting. This cannot be you and, ideally, should be two different people. The note taker will record key findings, issues, actions and next steps. Great meetings include great follow-up and a strong set of notes is invaluable when drafting the meeting follow-up. A time keeper is a useful resource to keep meetings on track. A person that monitors the clock will help the meeting leader be as efficient as possible with the group’s time.
Skills to Build
We’ve all been in a meeting where unplanned discussions come up and new topics derail the agenda. Meeting leaders need to be skilled at keeping meetings focused and on target. They need to practice techniques that recognize the unplanned topics but regain the group’s focus on the primary agenda. For example it may make sense to hold-off discussing the new topics until the end of the meeting or to add them to the agenda of a follow up meeting. By controlling the meeting and following the agenda, you avoid disruptions and maintain focus on the prioritized items.
Meetings are a great opportunity to build connections and comradery between team members. A strong leader works to find ways for everyone in the group to contribute and participate. Ask questions and request feedback from team members who normally don’t contribute. Alternatively, you can also ask different team members to own and lead a piece of the agenda during the meeting.
Just as the opening sets the tone of your meeting, the warp-up provides an opportunity to summarize key points, and to recap action items and assignments. When closing down the meeting it is also critical to clarify how follow-up will be communicated. For example: “We made great progress on the open items and I’ll be following up via e-mail with notes and key actions this afternoon.” Finally, try to close out the meeting on a positive note about the meeting and what was accomplished.
As soon as possible, send an email follow-up of what was discussed in the meeting. Summarize the key decisions, assigned tasks, next steps and other relevant notes or commentary. Make sure to include any specific dates or timelines for future meetings and solicit feedback and discussion topics for the next meeting.
The skill of running an effective team meeting is fundamental to your success as a project manager. By implementing these simple and repeatable steps, your leadership skills will be refined and your meetings will be efficient and productive.
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