Business Management

You lead like a girl! My formula for hosting engaging and productive meetings that employees actually want to attend

Last week I wrote about my leadership journey, and some of the challenges I’ve faced as a professional business leader and woman. One of the greatest challenges was (and is) the lack of female mentors at the executive level to help navigate specific issues.  Because of this, I had to learn many things the hard way; through embarrassing missteps, trial and error, observation, and piecing together things through research. In my experience, the greatest challenges were in the areas of communication and boundaries, and nowhere is this more true than in the business meeting.

Holding effective meetings is a challenge for professionals of every type, male and female, but as a woman in several virtually all-male companies I felt even more pressure as the spotlight seemed that much brighter. Today I’m going to share some of the things I learned to do that changed my meetings from a dreaded, boring ritual to something my team genuinely looked forward to, and that made a difference in not only my team’s but also my company’s performance. This not only improved morale, but also helped keep employees in different locations engaged. I’m sure you’ll find this valuable, so don’t forget to download the free meeting resource at the end to help you plan and execute killer meetings.

So…meetings. I have to confess that I’ve never liked them. Most of the meetings I attend consist of people giving me handouts, and then reading the information from the handouts aloud. Sometimes there’s a slideshow and someone will read the information on the slides to me. Best case scenario is maybe a couple senior managers will get into a really awkward disagreement, to the delight of the other participants (oh, is that just me?) The advent of conference calls and web calls made this better only in the sense that it was slightly easier to multi-task without getting caught, but the value was just not there that I ever saw.

If I’m honest, my initial attempts at staff meetings weren’t much better. I conducted the meetings because I was supposed to, but I didn’t really understand the point. Then some things happened that changed everything for me, and ever since then my meetings have actually been the high points of the week for me and my teams. So what happened?

My need to figure out how to conduct effective meetings was the result of my team tripling, being given an immense, enterprise-spanning initiative, and being told that my department turnover was the highest in the company, and was I sure I wasn’t being too hard on people? So right off the bat, my goals were to train, to inspire, and to retain employees as we worked on some pretty high stress, but at times monotonous, projects. Fortunately, I was mentored by a pioneer in behavioral psychology and well-versed in the principles of positive reinforcement, so I had an inkling about how to create conditions conducive to high performance. The final piece in the puzzle was watching one of my other mentors in action. He had the gift of inspiring people and helping them see the bigger picture that I really appreciated, and worked on developing in myself.

A resource I highly recommend if you want to have more effective meetings is Patrick Lencioni’s “Death By Meeting”. This book helped me view meetings in a whole different way. Lencioni deconstructs the traditional view of meetings to make them more interesting and meaningful. It is helpful to understand the types of meetings Lencioni refers to. In this model, meetings are not conducted for meetings sake, and principles of conflict are surfaced as conflict is seen as the most important aspect of meetings. The idea is that conflict equals change and if the meeting is not surfacing or managing change, then it is probably not needed.  Click here to view Lencioni’s meeting model.

Developing my meeting formula was years in the making, but here’s the summary of what I do to create highly engaging and effective meetings that people actually wanted to attend. This is just the summary, all the details are included in this free download containing my meeting formula and checklists for planning agendas and for conducting effective conference calls.

  • Set and communicate the intention of every meeting
  • Be strategic when creating your agenda
  • Set and communicate meeting Ground Rules
  • Use a Parking Lot
  • Create a team purpose and code of operating
  • Turn meetings into leadership training classes
  • Don’t read information to people
  • Don’t wait for tardy people or catch them up
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously, but do take your team seriously
  • Change up recurring meetings

If you put as many of these practices into place as possible, with as many meetings as you can, I think you’ll be very pleased with how much more engaging your meetings are, and how much more smoothly they run. If you want to learn more, please click here for the full description of my meeting success formula, as well as some helpful tips for planning agendas, and for conducting conference calls. Based on my own experience, mastering this will do wonders for your leadership profile. Next…my number one secret for creating teams that will happily go to battle with you. 

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at