I’ve had the great fortune of having some really great bosses and mentors in my life. Particularly in the early stages of my career. And I have found it interesting to trace back so many of the business maxims that I attribute to my success to their original source.
Colin Schleining if you're out there, this is one that I live by and credit to you.
“Make sure every meeting has a clearly defined agenda”.
It came up recently when I was working with a client this past year who had a standing meeting time in our weekly team calendar - but no agenda - ever.
I’ll be honest. It made me twitch. I started out by trying to you know, ‘roll with it’ and in the end struggled so hard with the inefficiency of it that I found myself becoming inefficient and unproductive at these meetings.
This is not a state that I’m comfortable in.
So, instead of, you know, continuing to twitch - or worse yet- remaining unproductive - I stepped back and took a moment to examine and uncover why setting an agenda for any meeting - regardless of how formal or informal, long or short - is the best advice ever.
Why Setting an Agenda is the Best Business Advice to Make Your Time Count
1. It Sets an Intention for the Meeting
When everyone knows what you are there to accomplish, your focus becomes working together to accomplish that intention. When there is a clear intention for the meeting it makes it easier to ‘parking lot’ tangents that arise for conversations or meetings to be had at another time. When there is a specific intention for the meeting every person in the meeting will be engaged and feel vital.
2. It Clarifies Expectations
When you know, and when your team members know, what the purpose of the meeting is, everyone implicitly understands what the expectations from them are at the meeting. Whether they need to prepare anything, whether or not they need to weigh in on any decisions or even if they are expected to contribute to a brainstorming session.
3. Your Time is More Productive
When everyone knows what you are there to do, what you need to get through and what you want your outcome of the meeting to be, you are going to get through it, you are going t get it done and you are going to feel like it was a good use of your time. And bonus - when other people feel like you have used their time well, they are going to give you more of it. Especially when you need it most. I promise.
4. It Gives Everyone Space to Participate
Without an agenda, all the air time in the meeting typically falls to the person with the loudest voice or the best story or the pushiest personal style or . . . which often leads to people feeling like their time has not been used well and/or their voice and work is not vital to the project or the team. See note above on how people feel when their time has been used well. Now imagine the opposite.
So, what's the best way to prepare an agenda for a meeting?
Here are the six key questions that I like to ask myself before every meeting.
- What is the objective of the meeting?
- Is there anything I should be pre-reading before the meeting?
- What projects do we need to update on?
- Are there decisions that need to be made in the meeting?
- Are there issues we need to table?
- What do we hope the next steps are coming out of this meeting?