30 Career Management Tips: Manage your meetings

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Sep 24

This month, I’m providing a career management tip-a-day (along with other posts) to help you trigger your own career management activities.

Today’s tip: Manage your meetings.

If e-mail is the best and worst personal productivity tool out there, then meetings rank right up there on people’s lists of the least productive activities we do in our careers. There’s numerous reasons why meetings are such a poor use of people’s time. And, you know as well as I do that poor meetings are not going away simply because I write about them on a career management blog.

The issue is, faced with unproductive meetings, how we can manage them as successfully as we can? Meetings are necessary, we want them to help our personal brand, and managing our career means we need to be successful in our meetings.

If it is your responsibility to be the leader in a meeting, here are five suggestions for making a successful meeting:

  1. Provide an agenda with the meeting invite, including the meeting documents so they can be reviewed before the meeting by other successful meeting attendants. How many times have you gone into a meeting with no agenda and the meeting documents sent in e-mail two minutes before the meeting while you are going to it?
  2. Determine the minimum number of people needed in the meeting. Two people in a meeting can be exactly right. Anything over ten people and things get dicey very fast.
  3. End the meeting earlier than planned. This will allow people in the meeting to connect with other meeting members on logistics for what needs to be done next or even resolve issues that came up during the meeting.
  4. Identify the type of meeting you are having — brainstorming, decision-making, status, or presentations on a subject (and others). It is important that the type of meeting you are having is announced with the meeting invite so that people come to the meeting expecting to brainstorm rather than be frustrated because no decisions were made because all you did was brainstorm.
  5. Summarize the meeting results and the next actions to be done with accountability as to who will do the next actions before leaving the meeting. A meeting is also a story and a story needs to have an ending.

Many of us don’t lead many meetings, but we do attend them. In this case, all you can control is what you do before, during and after the meeting. Here’s five tips for your meeting attendance as a cubicle warrior:

  1. If no agenda is provided in the meeting invite, ask for one. If none is sent and the meeting starts without an agenda, then ask for an agenda right then and there. If people don’t know what they are going to be doing in the meeting, nothing will get done.
  2. Be prepared. Know your portion of what is expected of you and know what reasons you have for what you recommend.
  3. Actively engage in the meeting. That means ask questions, provide clarifying statements, and tie down the next action. Most likely, if you don’t do these things, no one else will either and nothing will be accomplished in the meeting. This also means that multi-tasking on a conference call, reading your Blackberry during the meeting, and having your cell phone on fails the engagement of the meeting.
  4. Follow through with your next actions. Delivery counts and if you agree to do something in a meeting, follow through with that action to completion.
  5. Attend as few meetings as possible. Do you really need to be at a particular meeting? Do you have influence or decision-making ability at the meeting? Often, the reason a meeting is unproductive is that we don’t need to be there — so don’t go. You’ll be less frustrated and you’ll get other stuff done instead of being in an unproductive meeting.

Books have been written on how to set up meetings, how to make them more productive, and how to get results from meetings. Yet, Corporate Earth consistently fails the productive meeting test.

How about you?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.