Meetings are an important way to keep your team in sync and your initiatives running smoothly. Whether you need to share information, gather feedback, or make decisions, meetings can be an efficient and powerful way to move things forward—but only when they are actually effective.
What makes a meeting effective? According to a leadership lesson presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges, “Effective meetings allow for open conversation that draws upon each members' knowledge, skills, and perspectives to solve problems and to support one another in achieving the collective goals.” This may seem like a simple definition, but it takes skill to consistently run meetings that fit that description. The better your leaders are at running effective meetings, the more you will witness the following four benefits within your organization.
1. Increased engagement and collaboration
When led well, meetings offer each person the opportunity to participate and provide input. To engage each individual, effective facilitators focus on asking questions and guiding the conversation so that everyone understands that their perspectives and ideas are valued. These discussions can even spark collaborative brainstorming sessions that produce new ideas and creative solutions.
When preparing for a meeting, create a list of questions that will help stimulate discussion. If there are particular people who don’t regularly speak up, ask them to share their input with the group.
2. Increased accountability
A good meeting leader is skilled at creating an environment in which everybody feels that their contribution is valued. This helps make participants feel more comfortable taking on assignments and makes it clear that every task has an impact on the project as a whole. Committing to a task in a meeting often has more weight than doing so in a one-on-one situation or via email. When saying “yes” to an assignment in a meeting, individuals feel more accountable to the group and are more motivated to complete their piece of the project. Capturing action items and responsibilities in the meeting also increases personal accountability because the team will be able to review the task assignments in the meeting notes.
Conclude every meeting by summarizing the list of action items, including who is responsible for them and when the tasks are due. After the meeting, follow up via email or your project management tool to reinforce the commitments that were made.
3. A shared sense of purpose
Clearly stating the purpose of the meeting and providing an agenda in advance ensures that everybody is on the same page about why it is being held and what they need to do to come prepared. A skilled leader then uses the agenda to keep the discussion moving in the direction of the team’s goals. Sharing the agenda and goals with the team provides a shared sense of purpose because everyone understands the importance of the meeting and why they have been included. This shared purpose is motivating both during the meeting and after, when the team disperses to work on their individual action items.
When inviting people to a meeting, provide an agenda within the invite that clearly defines the meeting objectives. During the meeting, if the conversation starts to wander, circle back to those objectives to keep the meeting on track.
4. Opportunities for personal growth
A truly effective meeting creates opportunities for each person to develop important skills. The facilitator is refining their leadership skills by practicing effective communication techniques and motivating the group to be accountable for their commitments. Participants are able to witness the benefits of a well-run meeting and adopt the skills and behaviors modeled by the leader. An effective meeting also enables participants to challenge themselves and try something new. When tasks are being discussed and assigned, participants can volunteer to take on the work that interests them most. Even if they have limited knowledge or experience, they can join a group that will allow them to learn and develop their skills in that area.
To help individuals learn new skills, pair newer employees up with more experienced team members and give them a challenging task to complete as a team. This enables the less experienced individuals to learn from the expertise of their partners and gain new skills in a supportive and productive way.
Effective meetings provide many benefits to an organization. In addition to keeping everyone on the same page, well-run meetings also help increase engagement, collaboration, accountability, and personal development. However, not all leaders possess the necessary skill set to run an effective meeting. Fortunately, this can be taught and honed through training and practice. To learn more about planning and running meetings in your organization, download our free guide, A Guide to Running Effective Meetings.