Running a Work Meeting: How to get the edge as a women
“Yuck, not another meeting. We have meetings to plan meetings!” In the corporate setting, team meetings are essential but so many go off track as a result of poor management and strong conflicting opinions that nothing gets accomplished. As the person running the meeting, the responsibility is yours to ensure your meeting doesn’t deviate from its intended path. Here are some tips, especially for women new to the role to ensure the meeting runs smoothly.
Dress for the Occasion
As the leader of the meeting, you need to feel credible and authoritative. Even if your dress code is casual, wear a blazer, a tailored knit or softly tailored jacket; slacks work more to your advantage than jeans, heels make many women feel more confident than flats and makeup helps a lot to lend you authority. In more formal environments, a tailored trouser suit, dress and jacket or skirted suit will give you that touch of formality that sets you slightly apart. Don’t play with your hair, fuss with a scarf or distract the team with noisy bangles and long earrings.
Lead with Confidence
The meeting is yours. To keep everything on track send a timed agenda to all attendees, requesting that they come to the meeting with constructive ideas and suggestions, having actually thought about the issues beforehand. You would be the most popular leader ever if you were able to stick to the allotted timeline but it rarely happens. Keep the agenda realistic and cover the three most pressing issues. Limit your regular meetings to no longer than an hour or less and start and end on time. It’s amazing how decisive people are if time is running out. The meetings you plan to hash out issues might need longer time; always ask for permission if you go longer than the set time, knowing that some people will have to leave.
Take control of proceedings and establish ground rules that everyone contributes and agrees to. Including you! This practice is rarely done as leaders dislike seeming like a schoolteacher, but it saves endless hours of unproductive time and if people take ownership and get used to the idea they appreciate the discipline. Allocate a scribe or recorder of the decisions made and a time- keeper who lets it be known how much time is left for the item to be discussed. If no decision can be reached, adopt the “Parking Lot” concept. Decide to, A) allocate a committee of interested parties to take on the issue and come back to the team by a deadline. B) Drop the issue completely. C) Revisit the issue if time allows at the end or D) Put it on the agenda for the next meeting. If you see that any issue raised by someone is personal to their situation, suggest another meeting but only with the people involved.
Some useful ground rules to cut down on distractions
- Be on time.
- Cell phones off and unavailable. Attendees expecting calls must ask permission in advance and leave the room to take the call.
- All questions are directed to the leader, no side conversations. Be ready to stop the conversation if people are constantly whispering to each other.
- Be respectful of all suggestions and ideas.
- Be succinct. Allow people to have the floor for no more 2 minutes at a time.
- Introduce the concept of alignment not agreement. Alignment is: “Can I live with the decision, (even if I don’t agree with everything)”. Total agreement is much harder to obtain because turf wars and office politics create roadblocks and nothing can move forward.
Make sure that your tone and facial expressions are unemotional and non-judgmental. Men and women have different communication styles: females tend to enjoy discussing the issues at greater length, men prefer getting to the solution. The leader must satisfy both communication styles and if relevant, have the facts, statistics and studies at her fingertips, allowing time also to air burning issues, so that everyone feels heard and appreciated. “Tough on facts, gentle on style” is a great maxim to adopt. Remember you are timing the comments and thank people for their contribution.
Speaking of appreciation, a positive way to start the meeting is to mention any team players’ really stellar results or exceptional service. If nothing noteworthy happened, simply acknowledge people for the extra mile or a job well done.
If a new idea is being introduced to the team, be sure to stress the benefits to the group and don’t dwell on benefits to the company or the executives. Often adopted by politicians, one way of operating is to prepare the ground with your known champions before the meeting so that the new idea gains some traction before the naysayers take hold.
Plan Next Course of Action
When each agenda item is completed, assign the follow-up with a deadline to specific attendees and if necessary, to send you a report within a set timeframe. Don’t make a general request of the group to take on a project because chances are, it won’t get done.
Keep proceedings short, light hearted and fun. Constantly make adjustments and changes- if one thing doesn’t work, try something else. Encourage a culture of cooperation, collaboration and creativity to solve issues. Bringing constructive ideas to the meeting helps to eliminate whining. Have a great meeting!