Do you ever feel like you’re spending way too much time meeting with your team, potential clients or investors — time that you cannot get back and easily could have used to finalize an important project or even just spent with your loved ones? Do you walk away from meetings and know that exactly nothing got accomplished and there’s even more confusion than before?
Indeed, meetings are a necessary component of doing business today. Yet, often, they have no tangible outcome, take up a lot of time and are hard to organize. Essentially, meetings are big time wasters that interrupt productivity and workflow.
Being an entrepreneur or CEO often comes with the challenge of having too little time on hand and trying to make the most out of each and every minute. There’s no room to lose time and energy to unproductive activities, which ultimately affects the bottom line. Therefore, restructuring the way you run meetings will have a big impact not only on the time spent but also on the outcomes related to them. Smart leaders run successful and efficient meetings by using a clear framework and optimizing their behavior, so every party involved walks away with an actionable plan and clarity on what steps to take next.
Here are seven steps to making the most out of your meetings so you can stop wasting your time once and for all:
- Start off strong.
This important part is often overlooked. In order to maximize engagement and effortlessness and to set the tone for the upcoming time, it’s incredibly beneficial to spread positivity and build rapport with the other person or entire group. Use small talk intentionally to raise overall energy and set yourself up for success. Avoid jumping into the seriousness of the matter right away and discuss a current win or accomplishment of the company or individual instead. Use positivity and a feel-good state to your advantage and get creative on topics that excite the attendees.
2. Set a clear intention.
Before getting into details, discussions and brainstorming, make sure to get crystal clear on your desired outcome and the purpose of the meeting. Share the agenda with everyone involved to speed up the process and avoid distractions. Additionally, propose a clear outline of the amount of time you’re planning to spend on each topic. Don’t forget to incorporate enough space for questions at the end. Being transparent about designating only a limited amount of time to each subject allows you to stay accountable to your intention and communicate the importance of focus.
3. Leaders speak last.
Great leaders are aware of the benefits of letting everyone else speak first — before they share their own opinion. Not only do you gain amazing insight of how others look at a situation, but you also build trust by making them feel heard and accountable. Instead of forcing your commands on the team and just giving instructions, listen actively to what everyone has to say, and use that information to solve possible challenges. When you encourage engagement and ask for input, you activate critical thinking and show respect.
4. Acknowledge and validate.
Talking and sharing your personal opinion is easy and requires little skills. Listening actively, on the other hand, is an art that has not been mastered by many leaders. Especially in critical business situations where not everyone feels comfortable with expressing their concerns and opinions, things get lost in translation. Many issues could be avoided by increasing the quality of communication. Therefore, don’t just listen to the words being said — pay attention to body language, tone of voice and what’s being communicated between the lines.
Next, make the speaker feel heard and understood. Acknowledge what’s been said by reflecting back and then validating their opinion, even if you don’t agree. This is essential to great leadership and will open up many doors for you when it comes to influencing others. When people feel understood and safe, they’re way more likely to open up and consider compromises.
5. The person who asks the questions is in control of the conversation.
Don’t worry about going off track with a conversation in a meeting. Another advantage to letting others speak is that you are actually in control of where the conversation goes. Open-ended questions, in particular, are invaluable when guiding a team through a meeting or when having a sales conversation. Curiosity has a huge ROI. When you do encounter the problem of someone losing focus, ask them how the subject is relevant to the intention that has been set at the beginning of the meeting.
6. Share and ask for feedback.
As the owner or CEO of a company, it’s normal that people will look to you for guidance, suggestions and inspiration. After letting everyone speak, don’t be quiet about what you have to say and your opinion. Make sure to ask for feedback, though. And, lastly, come to a conclusion that creates a true win-win situation for everyone involved.
7. Set clear outcomes.
Before wrapping up the meeting, take one extra step to summarize the discussion and make sure everyone is clear on the outcome and next steps. Asking for any questions or concerns can save you time in the long run and also help you avoid miscommunication. Acknowledge the progress that’s been made, celebrate the results and have everyone walk away with good energy.
Running meetings that are productive and result in a clear action plan is very rewarding. Efficient meetings can speed up processes and increase team spirit and connection. Lead your meetings in a structured way, with intention and engagement from all parties involved.
This article has previously been published on Forbes.com