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How to lead an effective meeting that brings results

'Coach Kriengsak, I want to discuss how to run effective meetings," Sutas tells me.

"Khun Sutas, what prompted you to raise this topic?"

"Coach, when I tracked my time use last month, I found that 50% of it was spent in meetings. But taking a closer look, I saw that only about half of that meeting time was effectively spent. In other words, about 25% of my time was wasted in ineffective meetings."

"What were the causes of the ineffective results?"

"I can think of three main reasons:

People didn't come well prepared. When there were questions it took them time to gather data from their files and come up with answers.

People took too long to present. They shouldn't need more than five minutes but many people take 15 minutes, beating around the bush and bombarding us with too much data.

People defend their egos instead of trying to work well together."

"How do you plan to resolve these problems?"

"On the first issue, I will tell people to be better prepared in the future."

"Khun Sutas, have you told them before?"

"I have -- several times."

"Why didn't they change?"

"I don't know."

"So if you tell them again, will they change?"

"I don't think so."

"How will you help them to prepare better?"

"I have to make them really feel that it's in their best interest to well prepared for a meeting."

"How will you do that?"

"There are only two executives who are not well prepared. They are baby boomers -- senior people who value respect highly. I'll need to go to their offices individually. I will ask them politely, saying it means a lot to me if they are well prepared for the next meeting."

"So they will try to be cooperate with you. What could go wrong?"

"They may not know what to prepare. I think I'll need to give them some tips on preparation such as:

1. Read the last minutes of the last meeting and the agenda for the next one two days before the meeting.

2. Identify potential questions that I might ask them. Usually these would relate to unsolved problems, upcoming plans, and critical decisions that need to be made. For each category the typical questions will be:

Unsolved problems. What is the root cause? Who has the information, expertise and good judgement to solve it? What do you plan to do next if you know the cause? What are the consequences if you don't know the cause?

Upcoming events. What's critical? How will you prevent risk? What is the contingency plan?

Decisions. What criteria will you apply? What options do we have? What will be the risk/reward from the decision?"

"That's good. What about people taking long to present?"

"It's only the chief marketing officer. He tends to tell us everything about the issue before presenting the key information. I need to coach him on concise delivery. I think I will suggest that he and I do role play on a real topic that he plans to present. Then I will give him feedback and coach him on ways to improve. I think I will need two or three coaching sessions with him."

"That's good."

"Coach, the last topic concerns me the most -- people in meetings tend to defend their egos instead of trying to work well together."

"Why do you think people behave that way?"

He's quiet for few seconds and then says, "I'm not sure."

"Can you recall the last time that your people defended their egos in a meeting? What happened?"

"We were talking about the last month's performance. Sales revenue missed the target by 20%. The head of marketing blamed the sales department for not doing a good enough job to secure the business. Hence, the customers left for our competitors. The head of sales blamed marketing for the lack of a good campaign."

"Why did they blame each other?"

"Because I told them there would be consequences for the accountable person when mistakes happen," he says and pauses. "Oh … I'm the cause because I created a culture of blame."

"How will you change?"

"I have to shift my mindset. During tough times, we need to work as a team. It's the whole team that is accountable as we are all competing against outsiders. If I'm looking for scapegoats, people will naturally defend themselves.

"I need to communicate the shift in my mindset to the team. I'll admit that I'd made a mistake. Then I'll tell them that we're allowed to make mistakes as long as we try to fix them. We must move forward instead of 'blamestorming'."

"That's good. Let's stop here and follow up in our next session."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under TheCoach brand. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page at Previous articles are archived