the shape of leadership

Four Meeting Killers

Don’t let these people ruin your meetings

Influence Magazine on July 26, 2018

It’s not true that everyone hates meetings, but it often feels that way. If leading a meeting fills you with dread, or if you sense that same feeling coming over your team when it’s time to bring everyone together, there may be a meeting killer lurking around the corner.

Below are four meeting killers to look out for, and tips for keeping them away when it’s time to attend to business.

1. The Unprepared Leader

Meetings have a purpose, and that purpose should be clear. But it’s up to you to provide that clarity. That means having an agenda and staying on task. Coming unprepared to a meeting you’re leading is never an option.

Prepare an agenda beforehand, with the topics to cover clearly outlined and the main purpose at the top. Email it out in advance so people have a chance to review it and prepare for the meeting themselves.

If you need to present something, like a chart, a video or blueprints, have those on hand. And always be ready to answer any questions about what you’re presenting.

Keep your meetings alive, and you’ll soon see productivity increase.

2. The Inattentive Listener

There’s nothing more frustrating than having to repeat a point in a meeting because people weren’t paying attention. And although it’s up to each team member to tune in and focus, there are some things you as a leader can do to help. First and foremost, don’t bore them. Capture your audience’s attention, and then keep it throughout.

Try starting your meeting with some listening exercises. Share an engaging testimony, or use a game that requires careful listening. The best way to keep everyone’s attention in a meeting is to keep it concise. That doesn’t mean no long meetings. You will have marathon meetings from time to time. But never let a meeting drag on needlessly.

3. The Side-Tracking Interrupter

Next up is the person who loves to hijack a meeting with their personal opinion, pet peeve or project. Cut them off as soon as they start. If the topic is important, but not germane to the current meeting, offer to revisit it at the end, if there’s time, or in a separate meeting in the future.

One way to curtail this meeting killer is to use meeting jargon. A great phrase to employ in this case is, “Let’s sidebar that.” It lets them know right away that you’re focused on the task at hand, not some other idea.

4. The Long-Winded Talker

If anyone in the meeting, including you, loves to go on and on, your meeting could die a slow death. There’s nothing like a long-winded presenter to kill momentum. Set guidelines in advance, maybe even ground rules for how long each person can speak. And save all questions until the end, if possible.

As the leader, it’s never wrong to jump in. You may even need to be a little blunt with people, as long as they know you’re doing it for the right reason. Keep your meetings alive, and you’ll soon see productivity increase.


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