Gary Winters

Coach  Workshop Facilitator Author

10 Unconventional Tips for Better Meetings

meeting_room1Great leadership is about vision, right? Vision, mission, and values. The big stuff.

Well, that may be, but it’s also about meetings. As John Cleese so aptly named one of his classic training films, it’s all too often about Meetings, Bloody Meetings. You’re going to run some meetings, and most folks know that most meetings are a living hell.

Maybe you know all the standard meeting management techniques, such as:

  • ž  Have an agenda
  • ž  Start on time, end on time
  • ž  Make sure you have the right people at the meeting
  • ž  Be clear about any decision-making process you’re going to use
  • ž  Establish some meeting “norms” and stick to them
  • ž  And so on…

But even these fall short sometimes, and even the best meetings suffer from being the same old, same old. Too long, too boring, too frequent, too dominated by a few players, and so on. Admit it. You’ve been there.

What you might want to try is some unconventional meeting facilitation tips. Here’s some of the best I’ve collected (and used) over the years:

  1. Set the meeting for an unconventional time and/or length. Have your next staff meeting, for example, at 8:19 (promptly!) and announce the meeting will not go over 41 minutes.
  2. Take it outside. Seriously. Meet in a park or at a café.
  3. Use strategic silence. When the group is about to tackle a big issue, get the issue on the table, and then call for a time out of 2-3 minutes. No talking. Have people use the time to gather their thoughts. Then begin the conversation.
  4. Speaking of silence, shut up. Yes, I mean you – the meeting leader. Make a pact with yourself to talk half as often, for half as long. See what happens when you talk less and listen more.
  5. Set the stage for a great meeting by starting with some positive acknowledgements. Let’s face it – no one gets enough positive feedback. Start your next meeting with a round-robin during which every member offers someone else in the group a positive “attaboy” for something that occurred since the last meeting.
  6. Change the seating arrangements.  So often, everyone always sits in the same place. Shake things up the seating pattern and see what happens to the creative thinking.
  7. Rotate the meeting roles. Have people trade assignments, such as recorder, time manager, etc. You do have people doing these things, right?
  8. Take stretch breaks. More often, not less often. Every hour get everyone to stand up and stretch for a minute or two. No, not to get on their cell phones. Just to stretch and get some oxygen in their brains.
  9. At the end of the meeting, pass out some 3×5 cards. Ask everyone to write down a number between 1-10 (ten being optimal) that rates this meeting. After they’ve written down a number, ask everyone who didn’t give it a 10 to write one suggestion that could move their rating up a notch. At the next meeting, read the comments (preserving anonymity). Act on those suggestions.
  10. Strongly think about not having the meeting at all. Is there another way the ball could be moved forward? What’s the worst thing that would happen if you cancelled the meeting? Could you live with that? If so, why are you meeting at all?

I’d love to hear what other ideas you’ve seen or used that made your meetings better. After all, we can’t go on meeting this way!

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is the sequel to the very popular “What Your Boss Never Told You.” Packed inside are more tips, techniques, and insights about the challenging, but rewarding leadership position.

“What ELSE Your Boss Never Told You” is written in a conversational tone, as though you and the author were enjoying a cup of coffee and talking about the issues that emerge for new leaders. It stands alone, and/or could be read before or after the first volume, “What Your Boss Never Told You.” You can start with any chapter and read in any order you like.

if you search for a book on management, you’ll find a staggering 600,000+ books currently available. How can you narrow that down? “What Your Boss Never Told You” is the best place to start.

No textbook here – this book is short and sweet. It’s designed to help you “unpack” your new job and be effective from the first day with your new team. It contains twenty-one chapters filled with the wisdom Winters has gathered from real managers – effective, successful leaders in organizations much like yours.

Leaders make decisions every day – big and small. Most know that if they include others in the decision-making process, the quality of those decisions – and the commitment to them – will likely improve. That said, they also know it’s impractical, if not impossible, to include others in every decision they confront.

“To Do or Not To Do” tackles the question of when to make decisions on your own, and when to involve your team. It gives you a deceptively simple but proven method to determine, when you are facing a difficult decision, how to decide how to decide.

Far too many meetings are dreadful, mind-numbing, energy-draining, productivity-sapping, colossal wastes of time. As someone once said, “To kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon.”

Here’s the deal: if you’re willing to learn and apply the techniques in “So, How Was Your Meeting?”, you’ll call fewer meetings, while vastly improving the ones you do lead. They’ll take less time, have more balanced participation, produce better decisions, and result in concrete action items for follow-up afterwards.

While there are thousands of books written for people about to retire, this may be the only book for people who manage soon-to-retire employees. Written in a casual, conversational style, “Managing the Soon To Retire Employee” will give you everything you need to know to move forward with confidence and grace.

You can be successful with Sooners. It won’t happen by chance, and it’s not a matter of pulling some management “trick” out of your hat. But you can learn how to do it, and you can apply what you’ve learned right away.

Managing friends or former peers can be awkward. When you become the boss, everything about these relationships can suddenly be uncomfortable. There’s a new set of ground rules to establish – as manager, you are going be accountable for the work performance of friends or former co-workers on the team, and they are going to have to adjust to the fact that they now report to you. Everyone involved can feel awkward and hesitant about the future. 

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