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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Bullock

How to setup every meeting with the right behaviour expectations

Meetings. Our calendars are full of them: one-on-ones, team meetings, reviews, retrospectives, planning meetings and many more. They are a necessary part of every corporate role, yet we rarely leave them feeling good.

Meeting participants are often either distracted and not paying attention or give too much detail for the audience. Or the meeting is full of awkward silences, especially after a question.

Frustrated and dissatisfied by the ongoing challenges that meetings were presenting, I developed these three steps to make meetings more productive and enjoyable.

1. Make sure everyone commits to an informal code of conduct for your meetings

Every company should have it’s own meeting norms. They should be what you have agreed with the team are the behaviours that should and shouldn’t be expected. These should be several commitments that everyone has agreed to. If there are too many, choose a top three. Examples of these commitments include:

  • Listen when others are speaking

  • Stay positive

  • Be open-minded

  • Stick with the agenda

  • Be concise when speaking

  • If you are not needed, leave

  • Laptops closed (or open)

  • Take actions and share notes

  • One conversation at a time

2. Obtain their permission to be held accountable to these commitments

This may seem unusual, but it sets an expectation. Asking for permission lets the team know that you will hold them to what they just agreed. Examples of ways to ask for this permission include:

  • May I interrupt if we deviate from the agreed agenda?

  • Can I call people out if they're interrupting when others are speaking?

3. Get the participants to suggest how they would like you to hold them accountable

Make sure you get agreement from the team about how you should hold them accountable. Would they prefer you to raise your hand, ask them a summarising or follow-up question, or restate the commitment that has been made?

TAKEAWAY: Implementing these three steps can make even the most difficult meeting more productive. Setting agreed expectations and holding people accountable is a well-tested method to reduce conflict and improve outcomes.


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