So many leaders make or break their leadership status in meetings. The expectation is that a leader will demonstrate his role and skills appropriately, thereby harnessing the attention, energy and support of those present.
I had a client who never read through the minutes of the last meeting, never bothered to action his responsibilities of the action plan, so would arrive (usually late) and insist that together we read through the minutes of the previous meeting. As we got to the items that he had not managed to work on, he would merely delegate, and often to someone who really was not well suited to manage that task or project. Preparing leaders for elevated positions is one of the many pleasures that I facilitate. Often at management level we find that an individual has never been trained in chairing meetings.
If you are not yet a leader, then start to practise becoming one! Here are seven starter tips:
- Lead by example. You set the tone and pace of the meeting, so “own the room” and create an aura of authority by welcoming everyone as they seat themselves, and again formally at the start of the meeting. Sit at the head of the table. Let your welcome include an outline of expectations.
- Know that everyone has their own style of understanding and communicating. Different people react differently to various stimuli. Know that and prepare for your meeting accordingly. Your financial team may want numbers, pie charts, timelines; the marketing team may want videos and interesting visuals.
- Know the value of the information and ideas that are shared in what is often termed a “car-park conversation”. This is when people who have left the meeting feel confident enough to discuss the matters at hand, and those who are slower to process their thoughts, have developed an opinion. It is therefore the chair’s responsibility to provide an environment that is conducive for everyone to feel comfortable.
- Some people do not have the confidence to speak in front of a large meeting; it is therefore the role of the chair to draw them out.
- If everyone starts to talk at once, clearly state a few names and ask them to address the issue in that order. Never allow sideline conversations.
- Make sure you are well informed before the meeting and have a good knowledge of the subject to be discussed.
- Ensure that you have read through the minutes and have your notes for “Matters Arising” prepared, plus a note of any apologies.