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Three Ways to Keep Your Meetings From Leaking

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So, let me begin by explaining what I’m not talking about in the title of this post. I’m not talking about plugging leaks of confidential information. What I am talking about is the leakage of productivity that too often occurs in meetings.

With 15 years of management experience and 12 years of executive coaching in my rear view mirror, I have no idea how many meetings I’ve been in. It’s definitely one of those, “wish I had a dollar for” situations. It’s been a whole lot of meetings. Unfortunately, a lot of those meetings have leaked productivity like helium out of a cheap balloon.

No doubt, you know what it looks like because you’ve sat through (or, heaven forbid, have led) meetings that leak. You know them when you see them because a lot of people are sitting around not really contributing. The conversation meanders from one topic to the next. No one is really sure what happened or what the next steps are when the meeting ends.

Here are three ideas to keep your meetings from leaking. My goal is to get the conversation started here. Please contribute by leaving your best idea to prevent meeting leakage in the comments.

Keep it focused – If you’re running the meeting, you have to know what you want to accomplish and everyone there has to know it too. The simplest and time proven way to get all of that across is an agenda that starts with objectives. Send it out in advance and make it clear what people need to do in advance to be prepared.

Keep it short – No doubt, you’ve heard the line that work expands to fill the time allotted. Boy, is that ever true for meetings. When planning one, err on the side of not enough time rather than too much. If you have a clear agenda and objectives, you’ll make the most of it.

Keep it engaging – How many times have you been to a meeting where 20% of the people are doing 80% of the talking? If you’re organizing a meeting, be ruthless about who needs to be there and why. Don’t contribute to the leakage by inviting people who are not in a position to contribute to the desired outcome. If people know and understand why they’re there, they’re more likely to be engaged.

OK, let’s hear your voice of experience. What other tips do you have to prevent meeting leakage?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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