One of the most impactful parts of any team meeting is when there is agreement on the behaviours that, when adopted by team members, will enable success. This is effectively done as soon as you have confirmed the outputs of a meeting, by asking “How do we need to behave in order to achieve our outputs?” Sounds a bit childish? Soft and fuzzy? I used to think that until I discovered it really worked!

Here’s a real-life example

I was once asked to help an incoming board chair to change the way board meetings were run.  She confided to me that the board meetings, held in the evenings so everyone could attend, were rambling and often went long into the evening adding to the stress of board members who would have liked to use this time in their (paid) jobs or as leisure time.  However, some of the board members liked the chance to air issues or share their expertise and to socialize with their fellow board members, and enjoyed the long dinner that preceded the meeting so it wasn’t a straightforward change.

The solution was twofold.  Firstly, an influential subgroup of the board developed a clear purpose for the meetings and what roles were needed to deliver this purpose.  With support from the board chair this was agreed and implemented.  Secondly and just as importantly the behaviours of the board were agreed.  They included such items as “Stick to agenda topics” “Delegate items to sub groups if the board doesn’t need to debate” “End each item with an agreement of what needs to happen next” and each meeting started with a review of these behaviours.

The result was dramatic.  Meetings that averaged 4-5 hours now took 90 minutes and concrete outcomes were achieved.  Everyone on the board agreed that socializing and business were better separated, and enjoyed the choice to take part in the social side or not.

What you can do to get similar results?

  1. Take the time to agree and commit to the behaviours you need to demonstrate to deliver on meeting purpose.
  2. Encourage all participants to be aware and raise concerns if the behaviours are not being met.
  3. Review them at the end of the meeting – how did you perform?
  4. Review again at start of every meeting (2-5 minutes) – you’ll find this takes less time every time you do it. This reinforces commitment and new members appreciate how they need to behave to result in effective meetings.

All kinds of meetings can benefit from this and if you need to have effective meetings it’s well worth it.

If you’d like to find out more about designing meetings for success  or how you can do more to have effective meetings, click here.


Pat Goldthorpe and Susanne Mikler for their insights and being part of a change that made a difference!