Effective Project Meetings – How a Project Manager can Lead Mindful Meetings

How many times have you left project meetings feeling frustrated and none the wiser for having attended?  If you were to take a look at all the meetings you attend in a week – how many of them would you say were truly valuable to yourself or your team? Meetings where paths were mapped out, strategies were discussed and decisions were actually made. If you are reading that last statement and looking at it like it has three heads, then you, my friend, are a victim of ineffective meetings.

According to the National Statistics Council, 11 million meetings are held in the United States each day and some statistics suggest that up to 95% of them are ineffective.

Every project team has their own reasons to hold meetings. Some teams need more meetings to communicate and strategize than others. The main takeaway is, whether you are having one meeting a week or 50 meetings a week,  everyone’s time is valuable. Make the most out of that time. Let’s ‘Get Better’ with our approach to having meetings.

Mindful Project Meetings: The Challenge

Meetings are more important now than ever before. Why ? First, there has been a noticeable shift in many industries allowing employees to work remotely. To have the best company, you need the best people. This could mean that you have employees that live :

  • Locally but work remotely part of the time
  • Out of state and work remotely most of the time
  • On the other side of the country or in a different country altogether

With this shift comes the greater need for better communication and team engagement.

Second, many companies have an external team network in the form of vendors who help them to get the job done. No matter how big or small a role this group plays, meetings are a critical factor in getting this work done and being successful. With this need for project meetings, how can you make each one of them a meaningful and effective for all of your team members? Let’s start with some simple tasks.

Mindful Project Meetings: The Attendees

Let’s drill down to who really needs to be there. Before inviting the whole team, ask yourself:

  • Do you need 50 people in this discussion?
  • Who are the main contributors?
  • Who are the decision makers for their respective department?
  • Are those individuals able to communicate the notes to their own team members?

It is not that you want to exclude members of your team from the meeting. But there needs to be a certain reality to the inner workings of your group. If all of your team members are in meetings all day, every day- when is the “heads down” work getting done? When do people have time to be innovative and think of creative solutions? It is simply impossible. Get a handle on the attendees and the cadence of communication for an effective meeting every time.

Mindful Project Meetings: The Scheduling

You have determined the attendee list and would like to go ahead with scheduling the meeting. Let’s take a look at the below example of some typical scheduling fails and discuss where things are going wrong and how to be more mindful.

What’s the takeaway?  With 7 very different meetings happening back to back in one day; how much can this employee really contribute to all the discussions? The average human being does not have the capacity to jump from topic to topic to topic over an 8 hour period of time and be able to effectively contribute to each discussion. Try to schedule by the topic groups so that team members can focus better. For example, all study team discussions will happen prior to lunch and finance and quarterly meetings will happen after lunch. Another way to handle this is to schedule all study discussions on Monday, finance discussions on Tuesdays, etc.

In my next blog, I will continue by discussing effective meeting preparation and the meeting itself.

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