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6 Meeting Norms to Run More Effective Meetings

6 Meeting Norms to Run More Effective Meetings

April 19, 2022
Lead Others
Nathaniel Gaydosik

Today you are getting an inside look at WinShape Teams and some real-life changes we are making to how we operate. Because our organization values loving one another and having healthy relationships, it’s no surprise that it sometimes leads to unproductive meetings. Perhaps you’ve experienced one of those yourself. Pointless meetings hurt those in attendance, and they hurt the business overall.

The truth is, most employees want fewer meetings, and the meetings we do host have a real high cost for the business in time and resources.

Our attempt to solve the problem of ineffective meetings has come in the form of what we call our WinShape Teams Meeting Norms. These are inspired by research and the best practices of other organizations, blended with our values and heart to serve one another.

We present these meeting norms to our teammates not as the letter of the law, but as guiding principles from a heart of service. We know that grace is available and if we simply try to be consistent in these practices, all of us will see improvements in how we meet.

6 Meeting Norms to Run More Effective Meetings

Six Meeting Norms for Better Meetings

1. We faithfully steward the time and resources required for every meeting. 

We acknowledge meetings have a real cost, and we do not take this cost lightly. Just like budgeting funds, we strive to have time left over, as opposed to taking more time than we need. We strive to both start on time and finish early. 

2. We agree to meet only when there is a clearly stated purpose (and agenda if possible). 

The caller of the meeting needs to do some leg-work ahead of time to justify asking their teammates to spend time in a meeting, and they set everyone up for success by attaching an agenda. This article from Dropbox has some great tips for leaders to start opening more calendar whitespace for themselves and their team. 

3. We welcome and celebrate accountability. 

Because these norms are well established and communicated, we respond maturely when boundaries are set and honored. For example, if someone receives a vague meeting request, they should ask clarifying questions before accepting the invite. The organizer then responds respectfully and gives the needed clarity. It’s also appropriate to acknowledge that a meeting is called prematurely, therefore the organizer needs to establish the purpose and agenda and then reschedule.

4. We seek to hear from and respect all voices in the room. 

The attendees and organizer alike strive to allow space for every voice to be heard. This can look like politely asking a rather talkative member to hold their comments until the end OR giving each person a set amount of time for one question/comment. 

5. We commit to showing up prepared, with a plan for making decisions. 

Since the agenda was sent ahead of time, each member shows up having prepared and is aware of the decision-making process (if applicable). This could look like including a few options in the invite:

  • Come with ideas, we will choose one by the end of the hour.”
  • Come ready to pitch one idea, I will make the decision several days after this meeting.”
  • Come prepared with questions on how this new rollout affects you.”

6. We conclude by communicating and recording who will do what by when. 

We end meetings by identifying clear next steps, not walking out wondering what just happened and what we are expected to do next.

6 Meeting Norms to Run More Effective Meetings

The Meeting Organizer’s Role

In order for these meeting norms to be helpful, a lot hinges on creating clarity and communicating effectively. Much of the effort falls on the meeting organizer and requires them to demonstrate healthy self-leadership before involving others.

We encourage meeting organizers to ask themselves the following questions before sending an invite: 

  • What is the purpose of this meeting? (objectives, desired outcomes) 
  • Who needs to be in this meeting and what will their roles be?  
  • What type of meeting is this? (select all that apply) 
    • Planning 
    • Informing
    • Training
    • Brainstorming
    • One-on-One (Check-in, Feedback, Coaching, etc.)
    • Other _______________________ 
  • How will we manage our time in this meeting?
  • How will this meeting conclude? (decisions to be made, next steps, etc.)
  • Can an alternative option meet this need? (e.g. Slack, Software, Poll/Survey) 
6 Meeting Norms to Run More Effective Meetings

Oftentimes if we take some time to critically think as leaders, we can solve the problem on our own and eliminate the need for an entire meeting. In the hybrid work environment, never underestimate the power of a simple and quick phone call to save time and solve a problem without the calendar ever getting involved.

However, accountability and healthy boundaries are everyone’s responsibility. If these norms are established and then ignored and collaborators continue to attend meetings with no agenda, no clear purpose, and no respect for the established time frame, nothing will change.

Our hope is that teams and leaders become stronger, healthier, and more fulfilled through meeting better. Let us know if we can help your team create, establish, or improve your current meeting norms!

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