How To Prepare For Long, Complicated Meetings

Some big, messy meetings are a requirement
Some big, messy meetings are a requirement
Image Credit: Ari Herzog

As managers, our manager training has taught us a thing or two about how to run successful meetings. We know that we need to keep them short, tightly focused, and limit the number of people that we permit to attend. Our goal is to avoid having to attend those time wasting events that seem to go on and on forever. We know the drill: meetings should not last more than 30 minutes, we should not invite too many people, and we should always show up with an agenda for the meeting. However, not all meetings are created equal. There are some meetings that by their very nature are going to be long and complicated. How should managers go about handling these?

Make Sure You Have Lots Of People

We all use our manager skills when we are setting up meetings and we attempt to only invite those people who have either a stake in what will be discussed or whom we believe will be able to make a contribution. However, we have to throw this thinking out the window when we are faced with a long complicated meeting. If we want to solve a problem broadly then we don’t want to worry about how many people will be attending. We are dealing with tricky issues and so we need attendees who have different demographics, different ways of thinking, specialty knowledge, are from different departments, etc.

Managers need to seek variety when they are determining who they will invite to one of these types of meeting. The result of doing this means that you’ll end up with potentially a very different group at the meeting than you’d normally have. You should look for some people who are detail oriented and some who are “big picture” people. You should also get optimistic and pessimistic people to join.

Take The Time To Meet For As Long As Is Needed

Managers are always trying to find ways to make our meetings shorter. We’ll try things like holding standing meetings in order to keep things moving along. This all changes when we are trying to deal with a complicated topic. When planning a meeting like this, you should plan on it taking from a half a day to a couple of days to complete. Understand that the more people that are involved, the more time you are going to have to allocate in order to deal with issues such as subtopics. There may be push back when you schedule a meeting that will last this long, but understand that it is what is going to be required.

Do Not Bring An Agenda

Managers have a responsibility to make sure that everyone who will be attending their meeting understands why they are there. Where things can get tricky is when you realize that you should not be telling your attendees how to discuss the topic. If you provide an agenda, then you may be constraining the thinking and creating predetermined results.

A better way to handle this is to use the beginning of your meeting to create an agenda with everyone present. You’ll get everyone’s input on what they believe is the most important. Think of this as a form of team building. A side benefit of doing this is that you’ll end up getting everyone’s engagement in the meeting.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers need to adjust how they run some types of meetings. The big, complicated meeting in which we deal with topics like increasing the size of the business or changing the focus of what the business works on are big topics that can’t be dealt with in a quick meeting. Managers can’t give up on making an effort to get all of the needed people together in a single location for a long enough time to deal with these big issues.

If we don’t do this, then we may find ourselves unable to deal with the issues that are holding us back. Not having the ability to deal with big issues like this means that we’ll be restricting ourselves to only being able to deal with simple issues that take less than 30 minutes to resolve.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How can a manager keep a big complicated meeting moving along and not allow it to get stalled?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a manager you have a number of different tasks that you are responsible for using your manager skills to accomplish. You have to attract the right talent to join your team. This is easy because we have manager training that shows us how to do it. Once you do this, you have to find ways to get them to want to stay. This can be a difficult thing to do. Even the most experienced members of your team can fall short of expectations or grow bored when not given the proper outlet or projects, making it essential for managers to provide ways to challenge team members to tap into their most valuable skills. If you nurture your top talent, you’re ensuring that your team stays engaged while fostering their potential to grow within the company. When you encourage your employees to show you just how innovative and talented they can be, your team is bound to generate out-of-the-box ideas to help propel the company forward. Now just exactly how can you go about doing this?