THE AGENDA LOOKED MUCH THE SAME AS USUAL
with nothing special about date or time. But Location, under-
lined in red, jumped out from the rest of the page: ‘We face
a huge challenge this year and our meeting to discuss it starts
beside the Colossus ride at Thorpe Park.’
The average manager attends several dozen meetings a
month and far too many prove to be a waste of time.
Boredom: nine out of ten admit to daydreaming during
meetings and at least four confess to actually falling asleep.
Confusion: uncertainty about what the meeting will
achieve is common.
Conflict: participants seem so busy settling old scores and
winning arguments they never address the job in hand.
Ego: one or two people grab the ‘airtime’, control the
agenda and stop others contributing or getting a hearing.
You can tell an inspiring meeting when everyone feels stimu-
lated to attend and leaves believing it has been worthwhile.
Sometimes an unusual location, like the Colossus ride example,
can bring a meeting alive. In such encounters, people may not
LEIGH_ESSENTIALS_OF_MANAGEMENT.indb 209 18/01/2012 12:33
210 PART 3 MANAGE THE ORGANISATION
always like what they hear, yet still come away uplifted by the
experience and feeling it was worthwhile.
A reputation for running effective, inspiring meetings can
enhance your career. Despite the negative image of meetings as
mainly unproductive places, you will proba-
bly get many things done through them. So it
makes sense to become good at the various
tasks involved: convening, preparing, chair-
ing, participating and ensuring follow-up.
Some managers never master the art of
running effective meetings and consequently
damage their entire careers. Even if you
dislike formal meetings, commit to trying to make them enjoy-
able and productive. Once people realise you nearly always call
worthwhile meetings, with focus, pace and relevance, you will
rapidly attract a good attendance.
Zero in on any meeting on your patch that keeps happening
regularly and review whether it really is necessary. Ritualised
sessions, such as a weekly team gathering, may feel reassuring
yet can acquire a life of its own with people going through the
motions and never really making anything happen.
Lack of focus is a sure way to create dud meetings. Multiple
topics and heavy agendas may look impressive, but people
soon feel overwhelmed and unsure of what they can achieve.
To tighten up on purpose establish a single headline that
sums up what the meeting is about. ‘Before starting can we
just clarify the purpose of this meeting?’ This simple request
can transform meetings riddled with vague intentions into
something more concrete. Hearing the reply you may find
occasionally that you can respond: ‘In that case, I don’t think I
should be here,’ and leave.
a reputation for
can enhance your
LEIGH_ESSENTIALS_OF_MANAGEMENT.indb 210 18/01/2012 12:33
Inspire meetings 211
Once people detect your readiness to withdraw unless
there is clarity of purpose, they tend to ensure it exists before
inviting you. This is one way you can start affecting how the
organisation handles its meetings.
Preparation remains the Achilles’ heel of many managers. Never
assume your mere presence justifies a meeting. Make time to
prepare well: for example, read papers sent for discussion, talk
to people in advance about the issues, collect information and
begin formulating your views.
Once people realise you normally do your homework
they will tend to listen more carefully, giving your views more
weight. With good preparation, you will feel more confident to
listen openly while being careful to show you have not already
made up your mind.
Devote time to ensuring the right people attend because their
contribution will be essential or you need their commitment
or involvement in some way. Also, watch out for meeting
creep, where the number attending escalates through fear of
offending certain people or from gatecrashers. Explain why
you have chosen specific people to attend. ‘I need you there
because...’ can prove a compelling incentive for people to turn
up, even though they are extremely busy.
Manage the agenda
Whoever controls the agenda partly controls the meeting. This
underrated skill can save countless wasted hours. Create written
agendas, in advance or right at the start, allocating time accord-
ing to urgency, importance and complexity.
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