From Maddening to Marvelous Meetings

Meetings can be maddening. Some people come unprepared and others get off track. And how about those that constantly check email.

Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

Photo courtesy of (edited in Canva)

Team members leave meetings with no decisions, lacking direction, and not knowing what to expect next.

Power hungry individuals dominate the discussions. The meek say nothing.

Meetings can be an absolute waste of time and money. Make sure you have a legitimate reason for meeting.

How can we better manage our meetings and get results? Assign meeting roles that combat common meeting problems. 

1. Facilitator

The facilitator is the conductor of the meeting. The facilitator begins each meeting by stating the purpose of the meeting, reviewing the agenda items, and acknowledging role assignments (that were determined prior to the meeting).

Then the facilitator starts with the first agenda item and desired outcomes. The facilitator engages the participants ensuring everyone has the opportunity to contribute.

Facilitators should summarize the outcome for each agenda item before moving to the next item. This action allows the team to validate the summary and the scribe to capture the appropriate information. This cycle continues until the agenda items have been completed.

At the end of the meeting, the facilitator should review key decisions, action items, issues, and next steps.

2. Scribe

One of the least appreciated but most important roles is the scribe. The scribe has a challenging position. A scribe needs to be able to listen, summarize, and capture the essential elements for the meeting minutes.

3. Gatekeeper

The gatekeeper keeps the meeting participants on track. This person may allow participants to drift slightly, but at some point, the gatekeeper reels everyone in and brings them back to the current agenda item.

If the team members identify an item that merits further discussion, the facilitator may ask the scribe to capture the item (some people use a Parking Lot List).

4. Timekeeper

The facilitator should designate the amount of time for each agenda item. The timekeeper monitors the time.

Periodically the timekeeper calls everyone’s attention to the time remaining: “There are five minutes remaining.” A little later, “There are two minutes remaining” and finally, “Time’s up.”

5. Coach

The coach role is rarely used, but can be extremely helpful. The coach has the responsibility of making observations about the meeting. What was the interaction like between the team members? How well did the members complete the agenda items with desired outcomes? Did participants stay on track and fulfill the purpose of the meeting?

Towards the end of the meeting, the facilitator asks the coach to take 2-3 minutes to present his or her observations. The coach should highlight what went well, what did not go well, and what could be done in future meetings to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the meetings.

The coach should focus on the meeting process, not on the individuals. Be graceful and encouraging, but don’t shy away from making the appropriate comments.

The role of coach is particularly helpful the first few meetings. For example, imagine a team that will have a series of meetings to define requirements or do some planning. In the first couple of meetings, use the coach role.

Use a different team member for each meeting. This routine allows each team member to provide feedback that shapes the team’s behavior.

Make Your Meetings Count

Renegades don’t like the formality of meeting roles and controls. They love to wander into the weeds whenever they like and accomplish their own agenda. Old habits are hard to break.

Engage and educate your stakeholders. Leverage the coach’s feedback. Use your leadership skills to influence good behavior.

The number people in different roles should be commensurate with the number of people in the meeting. For a meeting with 3-4 people, you may only need a facilitator and a scribe. For a meeting with 10 or more people, you may wish to utilize all of the roles.

Educate your team members on meeting roles. Consider sharing this blog post. Assign roles where appropriate, evaluate the results, and seek to mature the team.