Have you been in a meeting where the outcome was to schedule the next meeting? Or, my personal favorite, when the meeting goes off on a tangent and doesn’t return? Does your firm allocate a budget line item for meetings? What if you did? When you consider the collective investment of the hourly rates in the room, meetings may be the biggest budget buster of all!

If your firm is like most companies, you are not delighted with the effectiveness of your meetings. In fact, you likely attend one or two meetings a week where you go into the meeting expecting your time to be “wasted”. How about a 2017 resolution to have better meetings?  What would have to change?

  1. Prepare to participate. This means if you are in charge of the meeting you disperse an agenda, in advance, along with a heads-up to the specific contributors that they will be asked to speak. If you aren’t in charge of the meeting, you review the agenda in advance and prepare your contributions. Then, during the meeting you leave your distractions outside and fully participate in listening and collaborating.
  2. Stack the agenda. Put the most important items on the front end, not the back end. Especially if those items are strategic in nature. As time passes, attention wanes, so lead with your best discussion point to get the room participating right away.
  3. Have limits. Use your agenda as a marker for the five or six items you want input on from the group. This looks less daunting for the attendees, and allows for discussion on all topics.
  4. Be intentional. If you have agenda items that only involve one or two people, you don’t need a meeting of 6-10 people to discuss them.
  5. Movement. Each item on the agenda should conclude with action items, a deadline for completion, and an assigned point person for it. This provides accountability to the progress and enhances the investment of time in the meeting by valuing contribution and advancing the agenda item.
  6. Bias. If you are running a meeting, censor your comments so you are an active listener first. If you are in a position of power, running a meeting where you seek the input of those who report to you is best done by soliciting their input before you add your thoughts. This can be challenging as you have great ideas and want to get buy-in from others. It is a skill worth practicing and the payoff is more than you can measure.

These small shifts in meetings will raise the engagement level of your attendees, which in turn elevates the outcomes of the meeting. Better outcomes help drive your firm forward and the investment in meetings begins paying dividends. In the highly competitive legal industry, the firm who consistently runs effective and efficient meetings has a distinct competitive advantage. Try one. Start small. Like any good resolution, the success is in the effort.

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About the Author

Judy Hissong
Judy Hissong, CLM, is the President of Nesso Strategies. Nesso is the Italian word for connection, and her company is built on the passion of human potential and bottom line improvement. She writes, speaks, trains, and coaches on leadership, wellness, workplace engagement, and communication and conflict skills. Find her on twitter @judyhissong; email judy@nessostrategies.com; phone 619.546.7885; and join her LinkedIn Group “Engaging Legal Leaders” for more conversation about leadership in law firms.