Believe it or not, meetings CAN be effective---if you know how to run them well.
We’ve all been in meetings. We’ve been invited to them, organized them, sat through them, loved them, hated them, wished we were not in them, avoided them or even simply skipped them. Whether your company is big or small, it seems there are too many meetings and nothing seems to ever get accomplished. Right?
Believe it or not, meetings CAN be effective if run well, and one Lingo Live customer had some words of wisdom for developing the skills necessary to run an effective meeting, while also developing the skills needed to be a good manager.
Start by asking yourself these questions about your own meeting skills
Our customer feels that there are specific skills that any IC or engineering manager should develop if they hope to establish themselves as a leader within their team while running an effective meeting. He’s outlined those skills below:
Skill to develop: captivate people and have them look up to you during discussions
Imagine a weekly team meeting. Do your peers frequently seek out your feedback about which task to assign to a particular engineer? One does not become a leader overnight, you know you are a leader if other engineers request feedback from you.
If your team members don’t naturally treat you like a leader, how do you assume that role on the team? Here are some things you can do to develop leadership skills and behavior:
Skill to develop: drive the conclusions and action items
Whether you are formally leading a meeting or not, there are several things you can do to improve its effectiveness including:
Skill to develop: come prepared and ask the hard questions
Imagine a small engineering meeting that you participated in or even led. Did you come prepared with an agenda? Did you send the agenda to all attendees prior to the meeting, or write it on the whiteboard as soon as the meeting began? One way to know if you were sufficiently prepared for the meeting is to take feedback from the attendees at the end of it. Effectively leading a meeting also means that everybody who attends feels that it was time well spent.
If you find yourself in a meeting where you’re struggling to get actively involved, there is at least one trick you can follow: Ask questions! It’s important to understand that (1) no question is a stupid question, and (2) others might be contemplating your very question. There may even be situations where everyone could use some additional clarification. Start by paraphrasing the topic you have an issue with, and then follow up with a request for further elaboration. This not only sheds light on the topic at hand, but it also inserts you firmly into the dialogue, which in turn grants you more opportunities to participate.
Leaders are experts at asking questions. They’ve graduated from just making clarification requests, to posing the hard questions that no one else is asking. Have you been in a meeting where everybody is hyped over the results of an experiment, but the engineering leader is confident enough to step up and ask the hard questions, even if they go against the group consensus?
Of course, the first step in becoming an expert at asking questions is to start by asking any question at all. Be sure to ask a question in the next meeting you attend!
Skill to develop: be able to context switch and stick to your calendar
We’ve all had the experience of discussing unresolved meeting topics long after the meeting has ended. While individual contributors have the luxury of brewing over a select theme for longer periods of time, an engineering leader does not. He or she has to be an expert at maneuvering a meeting-heavy schedule that covers a wide-range of topics. In other words, context switching is an inevitable part of your future as you move up in the ranks. It’s best to accept this fact early on to give yourself ample time to practice.
Context switching isn’t the only issue that engineers have with meeting-heavy schedules. Many engineers feel that a meeting in the middle of the day impedes productivity. For individual contributors to perform at their best, they need large chunks of uninterrupted work time. The only, highly effective way to reserve this time for yourself is to proactively block it on your calendar. Try, for example, to group as many weekly meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays, leaving the other days for IC work like thinking, writing, coding, recruiting, and other ad-hoc XFN meetings for long-term initiatives. Check your calendar to see if you have sufficient blocks of time for IC work. If you don’t, be sure to block it now.
Finally, be certain to end meetings on time so that they don’t eat into your personal work time or hinder your ability to context switch. You can clearly communicate the end of a meeting by using expressions like: “This meeting has a hard stop at…” or “To be mindful of everyone’s time, we’re ending the meeting at…”.
Lingo Live would like to thank our customer for his recommendations on which skills an IC should develop to be able to run an effective meeting while developing valuable managerial skills. We hope that his advice to “put in the work today and begin to distinguish yourself from your peers” is a helpful reminder that managers are not born… they are developed with practice and conscious actions and behavior.
Action Steps Recap
Follow our customer’s advice, and you’ll be a team leader running the most effective meetings in no time!
If you’d like to learn more useful managerial-relevant skills, join our first ever virtual conference! The Lingo Live Learner Summit this December 13th. It’s an opportunity to learn valuable communication techniques on everything from small talk to self-advocacy from expert coaches for free. We have some prominent engineering leaders from both Google to cutting-edge startups speaking about their career journeys and sharing valuable insights. The summit is open to all and participants may attend as many virtual sessions as they would like.
— The Lingo Live Team