Leading well in a meeting is one of the strongest ways to communicate value to the organization and show expertise to your colleagues.
And one of the key steps to leading well in meetings is to define the agenda. Think of an agenda for a meeting like a budget for your finances. Time is your most valuable resource, and an agenda allocates how time will be spent.
Here are three questions to focus your attention and level up your performance in meetings.
1. What is the purpose of this meeting? Everything else should fall into place once clarity on this one question is established. If it's a 1:1, the purpose might be to build relationship with your direct and gain insight into their work. If it's a project meeting, the purpose might be to clarify status on the project plan (though careful you don't call a meeting where an email will suffice), or brainstorm solutions to challenges facing your team. If it's an executive steering committee, the purpose might be to align next quarter's goals to the company's mission and strategy.
2. What's the time required to address the subject matter? My meetings got noticeably better once I started publishing agendas with time values attached to them. This signaled to the team that our efforts required resolution within a given period of time. Adherence to the agenda's timeframe focuses conversation, eliminates rabbit-trailing, and pushes dialogue towards decision making.
3. What's the capacity of my team to act on new initiatives? Effective meetings end with clarity on "Who does X (task) by Y (date)" If new work gets assigned out of a team meeting, it's your job to know the status of each team member's current capacity, the particular strengths they bring, and what their immediate future looks like. Only then can you effectively delegate work to be accomplished by a particular date (where an agenda item at a future meeting will be to followup on the work assigned in this meeting).
Meetings are a crucial, and getting better at them leverages the team towards greater effectiveness.
Read more on who needs to be in your meetings, two mindsets that will sabotage your next meeting, and the three attitudes that set your next meeting up for success.