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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Feb 18, 2022


Sat through a bad meeting recently? There are three stages we need to get right in any meeting to make it effective.



Welcome to episode 125 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we are exploring how to make meetings more effective by concentrating on three stages.

When people complain about meetings, it’s usually about how they are run rather than the meeting itself. Ineffective meetings often end up leading to even more meetings. Being able to plan and run an effective meeting is a core skill for any leader. Recognising the three key stages in any meeting can make a huge difference. 

Every meeting should have three clear stages - opening, exploring, and closing. As I describe these stages, think about any that you are already great at, and any that you tend to overlook. 

Let’s start with the opening stage. Here we are clarifying why we are here. What’s the purpose of this meeting? What’s the range across which we are working? What freedom and authority do we have? What are the expectations for those attending? This stage opens up the discussion by laying out the playing field. Wherever possible, the purpose and structure of the meeting should be shared with participants beforehand. Everyone should know why they are there and how they can contribute. 

Next comes the exploring stage. Here we are staying within the range we have established, but being creative. We are exploring the issues from all angles and generating new ideas.

During the closing stage, we make and note decisions, work out next steps, and clearly note who is accountable for what.

Consider what happens when these stages are missing or not managed well. Without an effective opening, people may be unclear about their role and how they should contribute. Without an effective exploring stage, people may feel like their ideas and contributions aren’t valued. They might wonder why the meeting couldn’t have just been an email. Without an effective closing stage, the team may fail to capture decisions and next steps. They may be left with lots of ideas that are leading nowhere. 

Okay - time for a quick self-assessment. Which of these three stages do you tend to do well, and which might you neglect? I always need to be conscious of the closing stage. I tend to cover the opening and exploring stages quite well, but sometimes rush over the decisions and next steps. So now I ensure I’ve dedicated enough time and attention to closing. Having a clear agenda helps remind me to cover these final details.

Try thinking about the three stages for your next meeting.