Effectively Leading Meetings to Influence
Influencing doesn’t just happen, even by those who possess natural strengths in this area. It takes time to plan and strategize, as we discussed in my previous article. Last time we looked at some pre-meeting strategies for influencing your board.
Success also requires bringing your best game to the meeting itself. This isn’t rocket science, but nonetheless many people fail to bring their “A” game when it counts most. Here are some tips for scoring big:
Lead the Meeting
Credibility increases when you have a plan and execute it well. If you can’t plan and control your meetings, how can you lead the effort you plan to propose? Before the meeting, make sure you distribute an agenda that includes a timeline. Once in the meeting, make sure you stick to the agenda while capturing ideas and action items, hold people accountable for previous commitments, and stay on track. If a new issue arises, discuss when the best time to resolve it would be – whether it is at that moment or a time in the future. Does this mean you are doing all the talking? Absolutely not. You are actively facilitating and keeping the meeting focused as well as making sure all attendees are valuable contributors.
Meeting norms allow you to keep the meeting productive and on track. For example, using the phrase “one conversation at a time” enables you to quickly shut down the interrupter, remind them of the agreed upon norms, and ask the other person to continue. The key is not allowing others to hijack your meeting. If you don’t already have norms, now is the time to develop them with the group and keep them posted at all meetings.
Many leaders need to intentionally elevate the energy they bring to meetings. If you aren’t enthused, why should others be? People respond to and are more likely to be influenced by those who are passionate and energetic. If you aren’t an extrovert, be aware that you might be draining to those who are.
How can you project more energy?
· Take actions that elevate your confidence and energy before the meeting (work out, play high- energy music, wear clothing that makes you feel confident, grab a latte…)
· Enter the room with a bounce in your step and a warm welcome – your initial tone sets the mood
· Stay off your phone or tablet – engage others while waiting for the start time (and yes, start on time no matter who is or isn’t present)
· Smile more
· Use more hand gestures
· Have strong eye contact
· Speak faster and moderate your pitch
· Stand at times and move around the room – use a whiteboard to record key decisions/action items/points of discussion
Allow Others to Fight Your Battles
Since you already did your pre-planning, you should have a sense for who is already on board with your proposal. Call on them first to share their opinions. If there is opposition, you could share your ideas, but it might be more effective to allow other members to go to bat for you. Consider who has the most credibility with the one objecting, and ask them for their thoughts.
Use Visual Charting as a Facilitation Tool
The beauty of flip charts (even more than notes projected from a laptop) is that they create a visual history of a meeting. It is easier to connect ideas shared throughout a long period of time because they are all visible. As such, it spurs greater creativity. It also allows you to keep someone from continuing to rehash an idea. Point to the idea already on the flip chart and say, “We’ve got that captured, let’s move on.” People also feel heard when they see what they’ve said in writing.
Sense Tone and Be Flexible in Decision Point
You may come into the meeting wanting a decision that day. However, timing with people is not always aligned to our personal schedule. Key people may not be present, and sometimes it can be prudent to postpone the discussion versus forcing the issue. You might sense through watching body language and facial expressions that you have more work to do before reaching consensus. Pointing out the work that was accomplished at the meeting but recommending additional time for individuals to process the discussion (which gives you time to have more one-on-ones) might be your best choice. I personally like to be decisive, but have learned the hard way that being adaptable can result in greater payoff in the long-term.
Bottom-line: Stay off autopilot and continue to be strategic in how you lead the meeting and interact with the participants.
Loriana Sekarski is President of BONSAI, a leadership coaching and consulting business. She is a leadership, engagement and soft skills expert. Loriana has been consulting and advising businesses and organizations on cultural change and engagement for over 25 years. She also instructs graduate students on these topics at Washington University in St. Louis. Her interest in sustainability of change efforts was ignited in her graduate research at MIT.