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Lead Better Meetings

How many meetings do you look forward to? It’s ok; you can tell the truth. How many times have you been a part of a meeting that the only thing engaged in the room was the clock? Here is a blueprint meeting agenda for making the most of your time and giving your team the best path to success.

It’s the 5-Star Meeting Agenda.

Sometimes the best lesson on how to do things is to know how not to do something. I have endured many bad leadership meetings. I am sure you have too.

How about the one where people talk about themselves or their own personal agenda?

Or a leadership meeting where an analyst would come and present their findings, people would ask them questions, only so they could go away, create more slides (and more slides), come back the next week, and add more slides? And every subsequent meeting after that was a rehashing of the deck.

Oh, you were there, too? The problem wasn’t content; the problem was the lack of decisions made. We weren’t moving things forward. 

The key is to start holding 5-star meetings. Download our business meeting agenda template here and start using it to organize and structure your meetings. Want more instructions on how to use it? Log in to Insiders for more information.

Download the 5 Star Meeting Agenda

Structure is key

I recognize that the popular phraseology of “thinking outside of the box” is a great motivator, but you need to structure the meeting in this case. With some constraints, the mind can be free from trying to understand what is being presented. 

According to the Harvard Business Review (August 2019): Constraints can foster innovation when they represent a motivating challenge and focus efforts on a more narrowly defined way forward. According to the studies we reviewed, when there are no constraints on the creative process, complacency sets in, and people follow what psychologists call the path-of-least-resistance – they go for the most intuitive idea that comes to mind rather than investing in the development of better ideas.  

https://hbr.org/2019/11/why-constraints-are-good-for-innovation

To have a clear agenda, you need to have the end goal of having quality leadership to move forward. With this clear agenda, you can motivate your team to solve hurdles, develop resolutions, and come out of the meeting rejuvenated and inspired. 5 out of 5 stars!

Before you begin the meeting, we recommend doing a little pre-work beforehand. Appoint a meeting manager to start and end on time (completing on time is essential), and keep to the agenda. Also, appoint a notetaker. No need for verbatim dictation – just key ideas.

Start on time and the right foot

Have the notetaker take down the following: date, the start and end times, and who is there. The meeting manager should set the meeting off on a positive note, set the tone of ‘wins.’ They need to take five minutes and go around the table to share insights or ‘aHA moments’ and then move on to your North Star KPIs.  Before the meeting, you should have identified the KPIs and spend a few minutes going over them at the top. 

These are the major KPIs that drive you towards your North Star Vision, facilitating the business you want to create.

List the pillars and find the hurdles

Coming into the meeting, you should have your strategic pillars for the quarter and if they are on point or off. Team updates can lead to a conversation, engage the responsible people and ensure you are going in the right direction. And if your KPIs are not being met, find the hurdles and what’s off-target. And don’t dwell on the ‘whys’; focus on the conversations to get back on track. This is also the time to get into any significant staff or client development issues. Remember to focus on an overview; if a problem does come up that needs more depth and discussion, and there isn’t enough time in the meeting to get that deep into it, schedule a time to meet about it in the future.

Create a to-do list

From this meeting, capture a to-do list. From the notes, keep track of follow-up conversations and meetings to discuss a topic. To encourage accountability, keep notes from the previous meeting and transfer notes from this meeting to the next agenda and so on. Having a consistent method of notating these to-do items ensures staying on track, highlighting anything that repeats after a while becoming a hurdle. 

Next, get a consensus. In a leadership roundtable discussion, take a few minutes to discuss any issues that require team agreement. Keep in mind that this isn’t the place for extended debate; make it a hurdle for future discussions.

You may not even have any issues to be discussed during this round table section of the meeting. And that’s fine because the bulk of the meeting should be overcoming hurdles. 

Hurdling

  • What are the things that are keeping the team from achieving their targets or their goals? 
  • What are the things that are keeping the team from actually achieving their to-do items? 
  • What are some of the things that are stopping the business from going forward? 

Capture those hurdles and have productive conversations about them. Go through clarifying issues, exploring solutions, coming to solutions, and implementing these solutions after the meeting. The conversation that you’d want to have here is, can we solve this problem together? Or is this something that needs to be scheduled for the future? Make a note of it as being resolved or scheduled. Again, with time management in mind, avoid circular conversations. 

Follow up with focus

Assign each hurdle with a priority, and start working on it. Maybe there isn’t enough time to address all of the hurdles. In that case, you may need to schedule specific hurdle meetings. This would be an opportunity to turn this into a ‘task group to-do’ so that those people can resolve that hurdle collectively.

You may encounter objections that surface from people who feel that they are spending too much time in meetings. To a certain extent, that is a part of our job to meet with people and resolve issues. The best way to work as a team and utilize that synergy of multiple people work on a problem.

We want to capture the different ideas and concepts that are in people’s minds, put them together in a focused way to resolve hurdles and get better solutions.  

Some final thoughts on notes. Remember, there is no need for verbatim notes; focus on outcomes and conclusions, a couple of bullet points is usually enough. Make sure that the notes that you capture here are relevant and poignant. 

Finally, get a five-star rating from everybody

Present the question to rate the meeting from one to five stars, and there is no need for commentary. The objective is to create five-star meetings. 

Managing your team in productive meetings on a focused path, making progress in ways they wouldn’t be able to on their own otherwise is the goal. And this structure will help you achieve that goal. 

Give it a try and let us know how you like it.

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