How to make meetings more productive

Mark Babbitt Headshot 16_0118_web

There's a lot of talk in the world of work around employee engagement. There's almost as much focus on making meetings more productive. And yet, over the last 15 years we've made little progress with either of these seemingly separate workplace issues.

And there may be good reason: these issues aren't all that separate. In fact, when we intentionally make meetings more productive by serving first and foremost as an engaging host -- a Chief Facilitation Officer or "CFO" -- we kill two not-so-different birds with one metaphoric stone.

Here are four ways to make your meetings more productive -- and employees more engaged -- by becoming your meeting's CFO.

Right People, Right Room, Right Time

In the Industrial Age, roll call for many meetings included the names with titles that carried the most authority. The trouble with these attendee lists? They attracted bureaucrats while repelling those who thoroughly understood the problem and were capable of affecting real change.

In the Social Age, meetings are less about title and power. Instead, CFOs work hard to get the right people in the right room at the right time. Through diversity, collaboration becomes the norm, replacing the group-think that plagued so many meetings for so long. The end result: an engaged group of people bonded by a common mission, without regard to rank.

First Discuss the Why and Who

So many old-school executives and managers call meetings not to thoroughly discuss an issue, but to share their vision of how that issue will be resolved. This command-and-control approach does little to motivate others in the room. Too often, instead of engaging their brains, the attendees simply do what they are told.

Today's best CFOs -- once they have the right people in the right room -- clearly state the problem. They then articulate the impact (the "why"). Finally, they help identify the stakeholders and the team dedicated to finding a solution (the "who").

By rallying the why around the why, the "what" and the "how" become team sports.

Focus Exclusively on Solutions

We've all been in those 60-minute meetings. You know the kind: The first 51 minutes are spent going over and over the problem. In the end, all we've accomplished is beating the workhorse to a bloody pulp.

Today's Chief Facilitation Officer provides all-important clarity around the challenge, of course. But then immediately turns the team's focus to finding solutions. So, rather than spending negative energy on worshipping the problem, all available brain cells work toward a repeatable and scalable response.

Actively Listen

The biggest challenge faced by many meeting organizers and those responsible for building engaged work teams? They are so busy talking that they fail to listen to the collective wisdom in the room. And nothing is more demotivating -- or disengages faster -- than team members who feel they have no voice.

Get the right people to focus exclusively on the mission. Motivate them to work together toward a solid solution. Then, let them talk. Enable discussion. Embrace false starts and tangents. In the long run, your willingness to listen will lead to trust. And trust will lead to big wins.

Tasked with leading an important meeting? Choose to serve as Chief Facilitation Officer.

You'll not only create a highly functioning work team. You'll directly impact both the employee engagement and productivity birds with just one stone.

A prolific blogger and speaker, Mark S. Babbitt is president of Switch and Shift and co-author of A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive. He is also one of Inc. Magazine's Top 100 Leadership Speakers. Tens of thousands of followers benefit from Babbitt's daily doses of personal and digital branding how-tos on Twitter at @MarkSBabbitt.

Latest News