If you don’t have time to mess around, you certainly don’t have time to mess around in meetings. If you want your meetings to go somewhere (and not take forever to do it), there are some principles that have come from the deep of corporate time for all of us to remember:
1) Be sure you need a meeting.
The first step to having productive meetings is not having wasteful meetings. Are you sure you can’t have a 5-minute conversation or send a text/email to resolve this open question? Having Google Calendars now makes it easy for us to schedule meetings, and we tend to default into thinking in 30-minute blocks. This is a great mistake.
2) Don’t do your thinking in the meeting.
Set your agenda and your goals in advance, of course, but also spend some time drafting the ideas/projects you want to review in any meeting. It’s better to have people respond to a fleshed-out idea than to wander in aimlessly asking others to help you find your way. Don’t wait until the meeting starts to do your thinking. While feedback is great, most design by committee is ineffective (and far more time-consuming).
3) Don’t tolerate wallflowers.
Don’t allow anyone to remain silent, and make a point to engage people who usually get out-talked. If it was important for them to be in the meeting, be sure you hear from them. If you’re seeking commitment to a course of action, don’t want to give anyone an excuse for backing out or backbiting later. And don’t miss out on important perspectives or criticisms someone might be afraid to voice.
4) Don’t beat around the bush.
You might only get one shot to get certain people in the same room at the same time. Ask the (usually uncomfortable) direct questions that everybody wants to ask but is afraid to, like “what do you want/expect,” and “what do you disagree with?” This is especially important if you are at a meeting of groups or people with different interests.
5) Know the next step.
Define what each of you need to do after the meeting. The meeting is only a success if it resolves a question with specific action.