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That one trick that adds structure to meetings

Ross Chapman
Ross Chapman
Head of Etch Sprints 15 Jul 20204 minutes read

Activity lacking direction and decision-making? You need a leader.

A few years ago, I was a Senior User Experience Designer at an eCommerce business. As part of my job, I would often get called into meetings for a ‘user point of view,’ as that was my key responsibility within the team.

Upon arrival, I’d sit down and contribute very little. I noticed others were doing the same too. The fact was that a couple of the managers would really have the conversation, and if they needed a data point or answer, would turn to us to regurgitate some stat. Then, before we knew it, other colleagues would collect at the glass door in the corridor outside, I would look at my watch, and our hour meeting was over.

I started to resent these meetings. I was powerless to do anything about them, until I read something that completely changed my approach in the way I would participate in meetings — forever.

Once the leader of the meeting is identified in front of the group, a unique thing happens. Responsibility falls to them. They’ll be known as the one that ran this meeting. Was it run well or poorly?

This technique works well in ad-hoc projects too. If you’re organising an event, you need a leader to be accountable and drive the project. If you need to start a marketing campaign, someone needs to own it, drive it and critique it. And if, in the unfortunate situation something goes wrong, the leader needs to “own up” and take responsibility.

I hope that gives you clear ideas on how to make meetings more effective and create more valuable outputs. 

Assign a leader

It’s about assigning a leader; Someone that can own the activity. A leader’s responsibility in this context is:

According to Dr Amanda Allisey, a Senior Lecturer at Deakin University, there has never before been a time when leadership skills have played such a vital role in supporting employees: 

‘Leadership skills are becoming more and more important as we move towards more flexible workplaces’

Here are some ways that can manifest within a typical business:

Ask “who is leading this?”

Probably the most powerful thing to ask within a meeting is “who is running this?” It’s not necessarily the person that sent the meeting invite. Affirming who is running this in front of the group is a powerful action, as it accomplishes a number of truths:

That last point is a recent understanding of mine. Work out the hourly rates of the people involved, and then you can see just how expensive/critical this meeting really is. Is this a £100 meeting? What did you have to show after £100 of investment?

Teamwork

Once the leader of the meeting is identified in front of the group, a unique thing happens. Responsibility falls to them. They’ll be known as the one that ran this meeting. Was it run well or poorly?

This technique works well in ad-hoc projects too. If you’re organising an event, you need a leader to be accountable and drive the project. If you need to start a marketing campaign, someone needs to own it, drive it and critique it. And if, in the unfortunate situation something goes wrong, the leader needs to “own up” and take responsibility.

Next story

This is the fourth in a five-part series, where we will dive into the common problems teams experience when working together and how to remedy these to unlock business value and resilience.

Over the series, we’ll cover Lencioni’s five dysfunctions :