How to Prepare for an Effective Business Meeting
Laying the Groundwork for a Productive Meeting – Before It Starts
Leading an effective meeting starts with a clear understanding of why the meeting is needed, who should be there, and what the desired outcomes are.
Business meetings are excellent opportunities to share information, formulate creative ideas and strategies, and enhance workplace morale. But achieving these results isn’t a matter of course or chance. As with any major undertaking, preparation is the key to a productive meeting. Here are a few guidelines for setting the stage for a successful meeting.
Ask: Is This Meeting Necessary?
Meetings are business tools. To paraphrase an old saying, to get the business done right, use the right business tool. That’s why it’s important to ask: Is this the best way to get the job done? Can the desired results be achieved in some other way, such as a conference call or videoconference?
Identify the Meeting Objectives
The leader should have a clear idea of the hoped-for outcome of the meeting. “Discussing an issue” or “brainstorming ideas” are not specific enough objectives. Each objective should a specific, action-oriented outcome in mind. Examples:
- To share information so that our people will be able to explain the new strategy to our customers more effectively.
- To brainstorm ideas so that we can cut costs, not jobs.
- To discuss the delivery problems so that we can improve customer satisfaction and increase job satisfaction within the shipping department.
Invite the “Right” People
Effective meeting leaders make sure they’re making the most productive use of everyone involved. Anyone who can have a direct impact on the results of the meeting should be either involved or kept involved.
Your boss, for example, may not need to be at your meeting, but should be kept informed of its outcome. Keep the boss informed by copying him or her on the meeting announcements and follow-up documentation.
Help Participants Prepare for the Meeting
Sending a brief email or memo, along with any appropriate background information, is an excellent way to help participants make the most of their time during the meeting. An effective pre-meeting announcement includes the following:
- Purpose statement. State it in one sentence. Example: “This meeting will review the situation with ACME and brainstorm ways to save this account.”
- Length. Time is everyone’s most precious commodity. Show respect for it by establishing right up front how long the meeting will last.
- Background. Make sure everyone has enough pertinent background information to prepare for the meeting. This will help you achieve its objective more quickly. Either include the information in the body of the announcement or attach it to your email or memo.
Here’s an example of an effective meeting announcement.
To: All Division Managers
Cc: John Topgun, Regional Director
Subject: Budget Meeting
There will be a meeting on April 23 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. to review next year’s proposed R&D Budget. Please be prepared to make a short (3-5 minute) presentation on how your department will be affected, along with any changes you recommend.
The proposed budget is attached. Please review it carefully before the meeting so that we can finish on time.
Our final recommendations go to the Board on May 1st, so this meeting will be critical to the final draft.
Your input will be critical. I look forward to seeing you on the 23d.
With this announcement, there’s little question about the purpose of the meeting, the participant’s role in it, and the commitment to making everyone’s time as productive as possible.
In other words, the meeting is off to a great start before it has even begun.
Management Use of Resources to Achieve Goals
Role of Manager is Performance Management and Line Management
Managers are managing people to successfully achieve business goals and to execute the business strategy. Critical to this is performance and line management of employees
The role of a manager is to ensure that resources are aligned to business strategy and that they are used effectively and efficiently. Manager responsibilities also include the line management and development of employees to both achieve organisational objectives and for employee personal growth. Manager skills can be considered in two main categories: performance management and line management.
A manager will be actively engaged in the performance management of employees against business objectives and individual performance objectives. However, they need to perform a number of additional tasks beyond managing performance such as:
- Organisation design — in conjunction with experts, such as HR advisors, the manager needs to ensure that the organisational design is fit for purpose. The organisational design must support the effective execution of business strategy
- Role definition — similarly the roles needed within an organisation must be well defined, including the purpose of the role, key accountabilities and responsibilities, capabilities, skills, knowledge and experience needed to perform the role
- Hiring employees. Managers need to be able to effectively search, select, interview, hire and retain suitable employees
- Goal setting and delegation. This is a crucial manager skill and relates to setting SMART objectives that are clearly related to business strategy and objectives
- Planning and resource allocation. Planning of work and aligning that with strategy and business priorities. Allocating the right resources at the right time and ensuring that the work gets done
- Decision-making. Managers must make many different decisions from prioritisation of work to managing resource conflicts to resolving problems
- Communication and reporting. Clearly communicating upwards to more senior managers, sideways to interested counter-parties and downwards to employees
The line manager role or line management is less focused on the task to be done and more on the people and includes:
- Motivating employees. Ensuring that people are motivated and engaged and are either performing well or excellently
- Team building. Create or maintain a high performance team
- Regular feedback. Staff should know how they are performing and receive timely feedback
- Development. Identifying areas of growth (content knowledge, skills and behaviours). Agreeing with employees’ development steps and providing the necessary support to help make it happen such as paying for training, giving time off or providing on-the-job training opportunities with new projects
- Performance appraisals. Performance evaluation should happen formally at least annually and regular interim appraisals such as quarterly
- Performance improvement. Understand what the root cause is and if appropriate then provide training, support, mentoring or coaching as needed to help employees achieve an appropriate level of performance
Role of Manager
The role of managers is to ensure that business resources are organised to effectively and efficiently deliver against business strategy and business objectives. Two key components of that role include performance management and line management. Effective managers will develop their manager skills in all of these areas.
How to Manage Your Boss
Manage Up to Stay Happy and Productive at Work
If your boss over- or under-manages you, what can you do to get what you need from them? And how can you effectively manage them so that you are happy and productive?
Most people think of managing someone at work as a one-way street. They think of their boss managing them and forget that bosses need to be managed as well.
Leaders need to be managed by their people because sometimes they over- or under-manage them. For example, they over-manage by under-delegating, micromanaging and continually checking on a project’s status and progress. Or, they under-manage by not giving their employees enough direction, detail or feedback.
These kinds of problems are more frequent than you would imagine and they occur for a number of reasons. For one, managers are usually promoted based on their technical expertise, and are rarely trained to have strong people management skills. Many times, they also lack good role models for how a manager should behave under various circumstances and what leadership looks like. And last, but not least, they rarely get timely and specific feedback from their employees as to how they are doing.
If you have a boss who needs to be managed for one of the reasons mentioned above, here are some practical things you can do to help improve your relationship with them:
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Understand the challenges your boss is dealing with and find out what kind of pressures he or she is under. This can make a big difference in your understanding why your boss is not managing you properly.
Provide Positive Feedback
Give your manager positive feedback on what is working well in your relationship. For example, say “Thanks for responding so promptly when I needed your help with my client’s emergency. My client was very pleased with the result and your help was instrumental in retaining this client.”
When you want your manager to change his or her behaviour, instead of giving feedback on what didn’t work in the past, focus on what you would like them to do going forward. Shifting your focus from the past to the future will help both of you maintain a positive state of mind.
Focusing on the past and what didn’t work can often times create feelings of resistance and resentment. Since feed-forward focuses on the future (things that have yet to happen), you will create a positive environment which will help your boss change his or her behaviour more quickly.
For more ideas on how to use feed-forward in your interactions, take a look at the FeedForward Tool that Marshall Goldsmith, a New York Times best-selling author and coach, created.
Be a Role Model
If you want your boss to do certain things, do them yourself. For example, if your boss needs to improve their listening skills, you should practice active listening in your interactions with them. He or she will soon start mirroring your behaviour and match what you are doing.
Finally, keep in mind that, just as managers need to adapt their leadership style to the person they are dealing with, so do you. You can’t manage all of your bosses the same way. Find out what their preferred leadership style is, how you can influence them, what works for them and what doesn’t. If you do your homework and take the time to prepare an action plan, the results will soon follow.