Meetings for Leaders

Most people love getting together with a small group of friends and having a great conversation.

On the flip side, there is almost no one on the planet who loves ‘meetings’ at work.

Something happens as we move from ‘life’ to ‘work’ that sucks the life right out of the “get to together to talk” opportunity. We find ourselves constantly in meetings that are just plain un-fun, or that we shouldn’t be in, or that achieve nothing, or that are too crowded, or that we simply wish we weren’t in.

Consider these facts from a recent study* – Upon condition of anonymity:

    • 91% of meeting participants daydream
    • 96% miss meetings altogether
    • 95% miss parts of meetings
    • 73% admit to ‘foreign orders’’
    • 39% admit to ‘dozing’

Surely, that’s more than enough motivation, for you to take every opportunity you have to make your meetings a whole lot better than most.

The principles of a much-better-than-most meeting are –

  1. Clear on WHY
  2. Clear on the desired OUTCOME
  3. Clear on WHO attends
  4. Clear on STRUCTURE
  5. Clear on LEADERSHIP – Accountability

If you own a meeting, then OWN IT!

If you don’t OWN the meeting, don’t waste other people’s time. 

To help, we’ve also included a Meeting Planner sheet that prompts you on the different things to consider ahead of and during the meeting. It also serves well as a record of a meeting. That way, as you plan the next one, you can improve on the one before and move agendas forward.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

As you develop as a great meeting leader, here’s the things to consider –

  • Principles
  • Planning a meeting
  • Running a great meeting
  • Facilitating meetings
  • Fixing a meeting when it derails
  • Tricks for making up time without being rude
  • Making sure everyone has a say in meetings


As discussed in summary, there are five principles of a much-better-than-most meeting. Here’s the details of these principles

Clear on WHY

Meetings should always have a purpose. Why are you having the meeting?  What are the alternatives? Could the same objective be achieved without sitting people together for a conversation? Would there better engagement in the objective using another media other than meeting, such as email, social platform, newsletter or speaking to individuals separately and garnering their ideas or views.   

Clear on the desired OUTCOME

Meetings should be aimed at achieving something. By all means connect different views, socialise ideas for debate, brainstorm ideas, or throw a problem out for discussion, but make sure you’re moving an agenda forward, solving a problem, or deciding on something. Everyone needs to walk out going “we did this!”

Clear on WHO attends

There’s only so many people who can constructively work together in a meeting. Think carefully about who can add value to the conversation. Then look at the number of people versus the time available. Every person needs time to speak or add their unique value, and to respond to others in the meeting.


Good meetings have good structure. An agenda is pretty obvious, but equally you need to lay out a plan for the conversation. What is the right structure for your purpose and desired outcome. Equally important is the right structure for the people you want to attend. What brings out the best in each of them? Formal structure? Open debate? Casual warm opening. Fast pace? Pre-reading? Play to their strengths, so they can make their best contribution.

Clear on LEADERSHIP – Accountability

Good meetings have great leadership. A person who feels very accountable for making the meeting work well. They own the purpose. They know the desired outcome. They know why each and every attendee is there. They’ve set the agenda and the structure. They own the meeting in the moment, and the own the follow-up. They make the meeting work well for everyone. They re-rail the de-rails mid meeting. They’re completely accountable.   

Planning a meeting

There are three things you have to plan – (Use the Meeting Planner for each stage)

  • Pre-Meeting – The success of a meeting starts in this pre-planning phase. It’s the purpose, outcome, attendees, and structure planning piece. 
  • During Meeting – Plan what you want to happen. Plan how people will contribute. Plan how you’ll park disruptions, or disruptive people. Plan what might come up to de-rail the meeting, and what topics are ‘on topic’ and which ones aren’t relevant. How will you introduce people and build receptivity to their participation. How will make sure everyone gets to contribute.
  • Post Meeting – Plan how you’re doing to take the outcomes and do something with them. Make this meeting worthwhile for every attendee and achieve the objectives you were seeking.

Running a great meeting

Once you’ve got a great plan, a great meeting is well managed.

You have an agenda and a plan. Now, you need to bring them to life.

The simple tips are –

  • Be open and energetic as you open.
  • Be clear on expectations from the beginning.
  • Hold time, so people know they can rely on you holding the schedule
  • Introduce people succinctly but sufficiently to be respectful and create receptivity to them and their contribution
  • Include people, and adjust your style to ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute. Managing the over-contributors. Invite the under-contributors.
  • Connect! The best meeting leaders connect to everyone evenly. Everyone feels they’ve been included for good reasons and are expected to make a great contribution.
  • Enjoy! The best meeting leaders enjoy the meeting. They arrive looking forward to it, they facilitate in an engaging way, and they close out with confidence that it was successful.
  • Listen! Constantly be aware, that as the leader, you’re leading even when you’re quietly watching someone else speak. 
  • Maintain the energy, momentum, and order.

Facilitating meetings

In many meetings, as the meeting leader, you’re facilitating, not actually participating. That means you’re managing the process, the conversation, and other people’s contributions, rather than actually fully joining the conversation.

We suggest you have a look at the Facilitation info on the mwah. Knowledge Base to get some good pointers.

Fixing a meeting when it derails

When a meeting derails, it ruins it for everyone. You get stuck in non-relevant conversations or side-tracked into off-topic topics.

Your most important role as the meeting leader is to hold momentum.

You’ve been clear on what’s expected and where you’re headed, so holding that momentum is important.

There are some common meeting derailers, here’s some thoughts on how to handle them –

  • An off topic topic – “That sounds really interesting. I wish we had more time today to discuss that, but I’m also conscious that every person here has pretty crazy agendas and I want to make sure we finish on time”.
  • A person who has a different agenda – “That is a really important topic. Would you mind if I came back to you to discuss that directly?”
  • If they continue off topic – “That sounds like a whole additional agenda. When we catch up, could we consider an additional meeting on that topic. I’ll note it in the minutes, so if anyone else is keen to join the topic, they can let us know”.
  • A person who looks like they want to speak, but can’t get in – “Name, I know you know this topic so well. Is there something you’d like to add?
  • A person who turns up late – “(Smile and nod, and usher them a seat, but quickly put your eyes back to the person speaking).
  • If the late person wants to explain their lateness – “No problem at all, we were just listening (Name) talking about…” (that shows you were listening and you want the topic back on track)
  • If there’s an unresolved issue that keeps interfering with the issue at hand – “That topic has come up a few times. How about we note it and park it. I’ll need to come and back and resolve that separately”.
  • If someone behaves really badly – “It might be a good point to have a short break at this point”. (And talk to the person in the break). 
  • If someone suddenly leaves early – (Own that its awkward and disrespectful to everyone else) – “Gosh. That’s not like (Name). Hope all is OK. Let’s stay focused and keep going”.
  • If someone keeps using their phone – “(Name), sorry to call you out a little, but I’d love to hear your views on xyz”.

Tricks for making up time without being rude

Sometimes the best planned meetings lose time and look like they’re going over time.

By half way through, you need to be rethinking and re-planning to make sure you bring it back into line for the finish time.

Here’s some tricks to make up time –

  • “I’m so sorry, but it been such a good conversation, that we’ll need to adjust the agenda a little. I’m going to take our Point 4, so we get back on track. We can revisit 4 in the future if need be”.
  • “It seems that despite best plans, we’re going to run short of time. Can I suggest that we shorten up some of the debate by keeping answers and ideas to summary points”. Then suggest that an attendee who you know to be succinct, speak next, and comment positively on their pace and succinctness.
  • “I know I set this agenda, but I think we’re not going to get through everything I was hoping to talk about. Would everyone be OK if I split the meeting, and we finish at Point 3. I can either circle back one-on-one on the additional items or we can set up another meeting. What would be the preference. (This allows people to opt in to extra time through a second meeting rather than just have this meeting run over).    

Making sure everyone has a say in meetings

It is really important that everyone invited to a meeting has space to contribute.

Some of the more extroverted and confident people will jump in and contribute early and often. You’ll need to work a little harder on people who are less confident or more inclined t reflect before they have a view. Invite them in, by specifically suggesting topics or points they might like to engage in. 

Good meeting managers, keep a tab, like they do in open university classes.

All the names of attendees at the meeting, with a ‘mark’ against their name each time they contribute. It doesn’t need to be 100% equal, but it does need to be fair and the time shared so that everyone has an opportunity and feels it was worth their time to attend.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

The big thing to do as you become as an expert in running great meetings is to practice. And when it becomes a strength, practice again and practice more! Being awesomely at managing a meeting is a real competitive advantage, and a strength your peers and your business can rely on.

Always remember your meeting principles

  1. Clear on WHY
  2. Clear on the desired OUTCOME
  3. Clear on WHO attends
  4. Clear on STRUCTURE
  5. Clear on LEADERSHIP – Accountability

AND know yourself and know the other attendees.

To facilitate well –

  • Prepare
  • Practice
  • Get feedback (from people who attend your meetings often and from people who just attend one or two of your meetings)
  • Post mortem every meeting and see where it could have been improved

AND, know others –

  • Who will be in the meeting and why
  • Your relationship with the others in the room
  • Your impact on others in the room
  • Strategies to deal with the different personalities, different communication and leadership styles, and also to deal with potential conflict between those styles?
  • Be really sure you’re the right person to lead the meeting.
  • And make sure the meeting works for everyone!

Plus, you can always read more, and watch people who are masterfully good and copy what they do well.

Here’s some reading –

HBR Article on Meetings

The expense of ineffective meetings from Wolf Motivation

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

Attached Files
# File Type File Size Download
1 .pdf 60.23 KB mwah. Leadership – Quick Meeting Planner
2 .pdf 63.94 KB mwah. Leadership – Quick Meeting Planner – Editable

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