Oh no! Not ANOTHER meeting!
You’ve got to go and the worst part is, you didn’t call it. So you have no control over the time, the location, the agenda or anything else.
Or do you?
Leading when you’re not the leader
You don’t have to be the chairman – the one with the hammer – to help make your meetings
go smoothly and effectively.
Let’s start with the agenda. Understand that if you don’t have one, very little will get done. Call the organizer and say, “Hey, John, I see that we have a meeting next week. I know you’re jammed, but I’m hoping I get can get an agenda so I can be prepared to do business.”
Four points for you, one each for:
- Reminding John a full week in advance that the meeting is coming up.
- Allowing him to save face by suggesting his plate is too full.
- Letting him know that you’d like to have an agenda.
- Planting the seed that an agenda is needed to get things done.
For two bonus points, volunteer to come up with a draft agenda for John’s approval. Yes, yes – you also have a full plate, it’s not your job to come up with an agenda and besides, only damn fools volunteer.
It will take maybe 10 minutes to whip up an agenda, but you know you will easily save 30 minutes or more in endless meandering at the meeting. It’s worth the investment.
Here are a few questions to ask the chairman to help you prepare the agenda, which is designed to keep everyone on task.
- What is the main topic of discussion?
- What is the goal of this meeting?
- Can we get it done in an hour? (This is what we coaches call “pre-supposition:” You’re planting the idea that an hour is the time limit and if it will go much beyond that, perhaps the focus of the meeting needs to be narrowed in order to get ’er done in 60 minutes.)
- Who would you like to take notes? (Be prepared to gracefully decline by offering up another victim who would be so much better qualified than you.)
- Will we need to have a follow-up meeting?
With an agenda in place, you have a huge head start on a successful meeting. But this is no time to rest on your laurels. It’s also your job — even at the back of the room — to help keep things moving smoothly, if you have any hope of getting out the meeting before you reach retirement age.
Here are some comments that could help you do that:
- Staying on point: “That’s an interesting idea. How can we apply that to this agenda item?”
- Including everyone: “Anne, you looked like you wanted to say something.”
- Moving the discussion forward: “Good point – Charlie just said the same thing. I’m curious if everyone else feels the same way.”
- Delineating roles: “Are we the right people to answer that question? Should that be assigned to someone else/a committee?”
And, of course, the ever-useful:
- Staying on track: “Oh look! We’ve only got 10 minutes left! What else do we need to do to finish on time?”
Just remember: Don’t be bossy, take away power from the chairman or make anyone look bad.
Learning to lead from the back of the room will save time. And who knows? Maybe even give you a chance to lead from the front of the room!
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