A Guide to Holding Successful Meetings

June 13, 2023

When was the last time your team held a meeting? If it’s been a while and you often find yourself prioritizing other things, there may be a good reason your meetings are boring.

Don’t worry. You’re not the only one who thinks that. Your team probably thinks it, too. Here are a few guidelines to make meetings more interesting and more important to the success of your business.

For starters, meetings have to be planned. That means having an agenda. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but the main topics of the meeting must be put down on paper and distributed to the team well in advance. This gives your team a chance to review the topics and let their subconscious play around with ideas for a few days. Having an agenda also allows for control of the meeting. If your team starts getting off-topic during the meeting, you can redirect and keep the meeting on-topic and on time.

Just as importantly, meetings are about solving problems. As a leader, your job is to identify problems. Your team is supposed to solve them not the other way around. This can be a difficult concept for owners as they are used to solving problems and see themselves as best suited to do so. But for any solution to stick long-term, the best way is for your team to adopt a solution and take full ownership of it. That’s why it needs to be their idea not yours.

Someone also needs to take notes. If a meeting takes place and there is no action afterward on what was discussed, the meeting was a waste of time. The note taker, which is a job that should rotate each meeting, doesn’t have to write everything down just the key takeaways, like who is responsible for follow-up on a task, what the group agreed to do moving forward, etc. Those notes should be distributed the following morning. 

The person that leads the meeting should also rotate. This doesn’t necessarily mean that agenda setting is that person’s responsibility. Remember, the leader identifies the problems. But the person in charge of the meeting simply calls the meeting to order and always on time. A meeting should never wait for a person who is late.

The person in charge of the meeting also makes sure that the group stays on-topic. If a subject comes up that is important and urgent in other words, it isn’t something that should wait to be discussed it should be tabled until the most important topic on the agenda is dealt with appropriately. Minor topics can be pushed off to the next meeting, if absolutely needed. Being in charge of a meeting is also a small step in leadership skill-building. Everyone in your shop should be expected to hold the reins every once in a while. If your shop has 12 people in it, that means one meeting a year is on their shoulders. That’s not an impossible commitment.

Meetings must have starting times and end times. These are to be honored. Not all meetings will produce a solution in its final form. It’s OK to leave a meeting with a work-in-progress. It will be a bonus that you have most of the agenda already laid out for the next meeting!  

Your first few meetings may take an hour, but shouldn’t go over that time limit. As your team gets comfortable with the idea that meetings are for solving problems, you will likely start to see most meetings in the 30- to 45-minute range. The agenda maker should adjust as needed as the group learns the norms of holding meetings.

When meetings are about accomplishing something and not just reviewing things, they take on a whole new life. If something can be covered in an email, then it should be. No one wants to stay late at work more than necessary just to hear last month’s financial review.  

If a topic on a meeting agenda includes a specific metric for example, how to address declining alignments then that’s fair game. Meetings should be about looking forward, not backwards. Your personal vehicle’s windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror for a reason. Keep this idea in mind as you plan and hold meetings.

About the Author

Dennis McCarron

Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers Inc., one of the leading brokers in the tire and automotive industry (www.cardinalbrokers.com.) To contact McCarron, email him at [email protected].

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