Making Meetings Work

– 5 Strategies for more Creative, Enthusiastic and Productive Meetings –

Debra Engelhardt-Nash – Making Meetings Work
We have all attended meetings that were boring, mindless and profoundly ineffective. But meetings don’t have to be a waste of time. Rather, they can be productive if the leader practices these five strategies and gets down to running the meeting instead of being run by it.

1. Introduction
Provide a quick progress update to allow everyone air time in the beginning of the meeting. This helps everyone settle in. What has happened since the last meeting?

2. Ground rules.
Have participants agree on ground rules, or expectations for this particular meeting. These simple rules of the road, not only set the standards, but also are gentle reminders to those who are taking a different road or direction. Some examples are: “One conversation at a time,” or “We will come to consensus on these particular issues,” or “What is said in this room, stays in this room.”

3. Pending agenda.
When a non-agenda issue threatens to take over the discussion, stop the meeting and write, with permission from the group, this new issue on a wall chart called unfinished business. By doing this you acknowledge the item but don’t address it immediately. Pending agenda issues are discussed at the end of the meeting or at a later date.

4. Questions.
To structure an orderly discussion of each agenda item, ask questions that address these facets of an issue: What are the facts? What are the pros and the cons? What other options are there? Where should the decision be made…at the management level or by the entire group? What might be the next steps?

5. Breaks.
People work better for longer periods of time when they are able to take short breaks, no longer than 5 or 10 minutes. Breaks are a good time to get feedback on the progress of the meeting or talk with people who have been antagonistic, disruptive, or unusually silent. It’s better to take a break, take the pulse, and regroup then to doggedly push on despite a sense that the meeting is getting out of hand.


Having a good meeting that accomplishes progress is critical in keeping the team focused and enthusiastic. It gives the team a sense of community and allows for better work flow.

The meeting needs to include the answer to the questions “What’s in it for them?” and “What is the purpose of this change or this plan?” The doctor is responsible for creating the reason why the team “buys in” to the goals, and the reasons for change. The process of gaining acceptance is as important as the plan itself. Otherwise, the team will see change as extra effort with no incentive. If you want the involvement and support of the team, they need to be connected to the plan and their personal reward.

This does not necessarily mean more money. There could be other incentives that are more important to the group. It may be better teamwork, or a planned retreat as a group. It could be creating a less stressful day. The more benefits for change that are outlined during the meeting, the more energized the team will be.

Your investment in planning a good meeting following the “Do’s and Don’ts” outlined here will generate a positive impact on your team. Your team meetings will be anticipated with excitement instead of dread. You will create action rather than anxiety. Your meetings will be pertinent, to the point and purposeful. Everyone will feel the difference. Doctor, Team and Patient.