Show employees you respect their time by scheduling meetings properly. If you plan a morning meeting, for example, ensure everyone will at least have a chance to get set for the day.
Explore this issueNovember 2015
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One effective option is a pre-lunch meeting. “Attendees will stay focused and avoid tangential discussions because they won’t want to lose lunch time,” says Mr. Hird, whose company provides senior-level financial professionals on a project and interim basis.
On the other hand, Diane Amundson, CSP, owner, Diane Amundson & Associates—a firm focused on increasing workplace productivity in Winona, Minn.—advises having short stand-up meetings within the first half hour of everyone’s morning arrival. This might include video conferencing to those in remote or satellite offices. Weekly tactical meetings to address issues that need to be handled immediately should be held as consistently as possible each week (e.g., every Tuesday or Wednesday at the same time). “This will help individuals better plan to make the meeting with fewer excuses for not attending,” she says.
No. 3: Invite the Right People
By inviting only the people who need to attend, managers help keep meetings on track because only those with a vested interest in the discussion and outcome are present. “Staff will ask fewer questions because no one needs to wonder why they’re there or ask about rudimentary issues on the topic or initiative,” says Mr. Hird.
Ms. Amundson points out that you may also want to consider whom not to invite. “Sometimes, upper-level leaders can intimidate a group’s conversation,” she says. “If higher-level leaders tend to dominate or take over meetings, you may want to ask them to meet with the staff after they have had a chance to dialogue and discuss an issue amongst themselves.”
No. 4: Create a Well-Thought-Out Agenda
Be sure to start a meeting on time, even if few people are present. “If you continually wait for everyone to show up, you’ll encourage tardiness,” Ms. Amundson says.
Then, the best way to keep a meeting on track is to give it a track to go on. An agenda should include who is gathering the information, presenting it and facilitating the discussion.
“If you show a propensity for veering off the agenda, people will quickly become distracted and deflated,” Mr. Hird says. “They’ll think—fairly or not—that you aren’t concerned about their time or the issue at hand. Sitting through off-topic conversations and the resulting drawn-out meeting can be very frustrating.”