How-to: Lead & Engage in Workplace Meetings like a Pro
Software Engineers (and pretty much all IT professionals) are super familiar with this daily phenomenon we engage in called meetings. 🙃
These days looked upon with disdain, meetings have a way of energizing some folks, and utterly draining the life out of others.
Over the years, I have accumulated some small tips on how to get the most out of meetings. I will mention, these learnings come from my personal experience, working in the IT Industry for the past 5.5 years.
Your experience may likely differ.
Are you the meeting organizer? ✅ You better set the agenda.
This should be common sense. Everyone must know in advance what is going to be discussed, so that they can come with their thoughts prepared for a constructive engagement.
These days, if I don’t see a meeting agenda, it’s going straight to my trash bin 🗑️no questions asked.
Are you one of the participants? ✅ Ask questions for clarity!
Nobody wants to keep talking on and on, without active discussion and participation. I will be annoyed if I mentioned something (multiple times) in a meeting, AND sent a follow-up note summarizing the meeting, only to see the same questions being repeated again.
Ask it/them while you are there, make good use of the time 🕰️ (everyone’s time), and your company’s 💲💲💲 money.
Summarize what you think you heard to check with the other person for clarity.
Are you noticing the topic diverging? ✅ Say something!
Get everybody back on track and just say “Hey, we’re here to discuss B, so C yourself out if that’s what you wanna discuss” … nicely, of course. 🙂
Just mention we need to stick to the current topic, come to a decison, and think/talk about the other topic later.
And if the other topic can’t be avoided (life happens sometimes, I’ve done it too), explain with a good reason why.
Are you trying to achieve alignment? ✅ Invite a small group of people.
Not their friends, uncles and aunts (aka, their entire team). I have noticed that when you have too many people in a meeting to discuss something or come to an agreement (especially in a large organizational setting), people just tend to agree with the general direction (aka, the loudest voice) and just stop thinking critically.
Come to an agreement with a smaller group, share it back with the bigger group for feedback.
This is Information Technology/Software Engineering/Product Management. You want everyone to think critically, deeply, and outside the box.
Meeting is going over time? ✅ Call it!
This goes for both the meeting organizers and participants. I am usually part of at least four to five different meetings each day, sometimes back-to-back. People have other stuff they need to get done.
Schedule a Part Two, and make sure to include an agenda.
And if you’re running late to another one, hit the organizer up and let them know you will be joining late because of such-and-such reason.
Sudden meeting, and you notice the other person had back-to-backs all day? ✅ Account for bio breaks!
PLEASE be empathetic to the emotional, mental, and physical well-being and health of your colleagues.
Pretty please. Start the meeting @10:10 instead of @10:00.
Ask them how are they doing, how is work, make sure they are in a good state of mind.
Keep your calendar 🗓️ UP-TO-DATE!
In large organizations, sometimes you cannot get around having meetings with many participants.
If I am setting up a meeting, and I see your calendar open @10am Wednesday, along with 12 other folks’ calendars open @10am Wednesday, I am gonna send out a meeting invite for @10am Wednesday.
But then if I see an e-mail from you saying “Oh I can’t, sorry” — oh lord, I don’t even know how I will reply. 🤪
Only now, I just have to make sure that the new timing (probably even new day) will ALSO work for the 11 other folks, because you couldn’t/didn’t keep your calendar UP-TO-DATE, and have got me playing calendar bingo.
Life happens, and if you forgot, or can’t make it, apologize like a decent human being.