183. Creating Effective, Engaging, and Enjoyable Meetings – with Mamie Kanfer Stewart

About this Podcast

Ep. 183 – We all know that bad meetings can be a waste of time, reduce energy, and hinder team and business growth. But, how in the world can we change that?

Well, my friends, let me introduce you to a true meeting expertMamie Kanfer Stewart. Mamie has spent the last 10 years helping companies streamline meetings and joined me for this week’s episode of the Manager Track podcast to share her insights.

If you’re tired of unproductive and energy-draining meetings, or if you’re leading meetings with unengaged participants, then this episode is a must-listen!

Watch us on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/cEgYMEsLR2M

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Episode 183 Transcript:

Ramona Shaw [00:00:00]:

Welcome to the Manager Track Podcast. In this episode, I’m going to share with you my conversation with Mamie Kenford Stewart, a executive coach and meeting expert. She wrote a book called Momentum creating Effective, Engaging and Enjoyable Meetings. Now, how to manage meetings is something that all leaders have to figure out at some point in their careers. Because as a leader, you will be facilitating and hosting and guiding and directing a lot of meetings and how well you do so in terms of preparing for those guiding through them, especially when people want to get off of tangents or when time runs out or when things get stressful or get tense in a conversation. How well you do will say a lot about your leadership effectiveness and how other people see you and believe in you. So learning how to run effective meetings and the tools and the mindset to do so is what we’re going to talk about in this conversation with Mamie. I am super excited.

Ramona Shaw [00:01:00]:

Mamie, by the way, is also a podcast host. She runs this show called The Modern Manager, and I highly recommend checking it out. So click on the show notes to find the link right there. Without further ado, let’s dive in. I’m going to welcome Mamie to the show. Here’s the question how do you successfully transition into your first official leadership role, build the confidence and competence to lead your team successfully and establish yourself as a respected and trusted leader across the organization? That’s the question, and this show provides the answers. Welcome to the Manager Track Podcast. I’m your host, Ramona Shaw, and I’m on a mission to create workplaces where work is not seen as a source of stress and dread, but as a source of contribution, connection and fulfillment.

Ramona Shaw [00:01:43]:

And this transition starts with developing a new generation of leaders who know how to lead so everyone wins and grows. In the show, you’ll learn how to think, communicate, and act as the confident and competent leader you know you can be. Welcome, Mamie. Thanks for being on the Manager track podcast. I’m very much looking forward to this conversation. I am so excited to be here with you too, Irona. Thank you so much for having me. There are a lot of people who say they’re experts in a number of things, but an expert on meetings and meeting management is something that I find very useful, very tactical, and I immediately think, yes, can I pick a brain? This is a beautiful opportunity for me to learn from you as well, because I think, and we briefly talked about this a minute ago, learning how to manage meetings and to do so well is a skill that you have to develop.

Ramona Shaw [00:02:32]:

There is not a light switch we can turn on as we move into leadership roles or grow in leadership positions. And it’s something that evolves, right, with new technology, with new setups of hybrid and remote, with the fact that as our roles change and responsibilities increase, we find ourselves exposed to new people, different personalities, more responsibilities, high stake and all that. I’m looking forward to this conversation and learning from you and would love to dive in right away with sort of the downside of it. What happens when meetings go wrong? How do they go wrong? What are some of the common challenges that you see in companies that invite you to come in and help them? Yeah, I think what goes wrong? I think anyone could answer that question, because we’ve all been in really bad meetings, right? They just feel like a waste of time. It reduces our energy. It slows down the pace of work. It makes people feel like they’re not being valued. There’s a million things that can go wrong when you aren’t attentive to your meeting practices.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:03:31]:

And that’s just on an individual level. But as a collective or as an organization, if your meetings aren’t moving work forward, that can have serious and significant business costs because you’re wasting your people’s time. You can increase turnover when people don’t feel like they are respected in their meetings if they’re not building relationships with their colleagues. So there’s so many problems across the board at the individual, the team, and the organizational level. And to me, meetings are actually the biggest problem in business today because they are such an important part of how work gets done. And work across the board happens in meetings. That’s where people come together and we can get into all the reasons why you should have meetings and why you shouldn’t have meetings. But at the end of the day, meetings aren’t going anywhere.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:04:15]:

And so if you’re not addressing them, if you’re not making them a place where people walk away feeling like excited to do the work, feeling like they had robust conversation and their opinions were valued, where they feel like things are moving forward, then you are losing out on a lot of opportunity in your business and for your team. So that’s the big picture of what happens when meetings are run poorly and what can positively happen when meetings are run well. And the number one thing where it all boils down to is really, does your meeting have a desired outcome? Is your meeting driving towards something that you’re trying to achieve? Or is it a gathering of people to come together and have a discussion? And this is what most of us get wrong. We think, okay, we know how to run a meeting because we’ve been in a lot of meetings in our lives. So as a manager and a person who’s leading meetings, what it boils down to is whether or not your meeting ultimately has a reason for gathering. Do you have a desired outcome? Is this meeting going to accomplish something that will move your work, move your team, move your organization forward? And it’s the number one thing that we do wrong when we’re planning meetings is we think about why are we having this meeting? But when you answer the question why, you often come up with activities while we’re going to have this meeting to discuss, to review, to decide to plan, you’re not thinking about the outcome. And the problem there is you can have a great discussion, you can have a wonderful planning session, but at the end, how do you know that meeting was successful? How do you know it got you to the place that you needed to get to in order for work to keep going forward? So if you don’t know what the meeting is trying to accomplish, then it makes it very hard to know are the right people here? Is our agenda designed to get us to that outcome? At the end of the meeting, did we get where we need to get to or do we now just need to have another meeting to continue the conversation? Right? And that’s where where managers can get stuck, because meetings don’t have to be endless. They don’t have to be this ongoing wandering thing that we all show up to and get frustrated with.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:06:20]:

They can actually be a wonderful part of the way your team collaborates. So in a company, let’s say, where you go in as a coach or consultant and you work with the teams and the leaders to make their meetings more effective, what typically happens in that process. So it depends on whether I’m working with an individual team on their meetings or with the organization at a larger scale. So let’s just focus on the team because I think for a lot of your listeners, that’s probably the domain that they’re most interested in. So with the team, where we start with are what are all the meetings that you’re having right now? Let’s look back at your calendar and identify all the various different types of meetings you have and what the purpose of those meetings are. And then we kind of reverse engineer to say, all right, let’s just use a couple of these as an example and figure out what were you trying to accomplish in that meeting? Maybe that now gives us some insight into the kinds of meetings that your team actually needs to have. And I call it a meeting portfolio where we looked and tried to design collectively across the team the various types of meetings that your team needs to be having, either on a regular basis because some work happens in a regular cadence or as one offs. So a project kickoff might be a one off meeting that you have randomly when new projects are kicking off, whereas a team meeting might be happening every single week as the team is coming together to stay aligned.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:07:39]:

So we try to create a set of meetings that can be part of your portfolio that have standardized practices because that is one of the secrets to making meeting management really easy. If every meeting is a uniquely designed meeting, it actually takes some brain power and some time to sit and plan it out. But if you know, when you do a project kickoff, you always run it the same way. If you know that when you’re having a one on one meeting, you always run it the same way. You can have a template that prompts you to ask the right questions at the right time, to think through and plan the agenda in a structured way that you know is going to lead you to the outcomes that you need. And it just takes so much pressure off of us as meeting leaders because we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can actually use good tried and true practices and of course, always revisiting. I tell teams you should at least once a year revisit the kinds of meetings you’re having and ask, are these meetings still serving us well? Is the design of this particular meeting still working for us? Or are there new practices we want to try, new technologies, we want to try different ways of coming together that might be more effective.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:08:41]:

But by having those standard practices, by having those templates that you can use, you’re now bringing your team together around meeting practices that everyone shares, which again, just makes it so much easier for you as the meeting leader and so much easier for participants because they know what to expect. And so I love the idea of the meeting portfolio, which I reckon works for a team, as of what are the team meetings, be it a project team or an organizational structural team. The other part, though, is each individual, whether leader or not, can do the same exercise and look at what are the meetings I typically have and how do I run them, or how do I prepare for them in order to make them more effective. Is that right? Yeah. And when we look at a meeting, let’s say for a problem solving meeting, right, some teams need to have problem solving meetings, so that can be a particular kind of meeting. And when we’re building it out as part of your portfolio, we’d say, all right, what’s the purpose of this meeting, which we call the desired outcome. So what’s the outcome you would be driving for in this type of meeting? Clearly, it would be solving a problem. Then we’d say, okay, what do people need to do to prepare for this kind of meeting? And now we know for the meeting leader, they need to provide the context so that everyone who comes into the meeting will know what the problem is already.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:09:59]:

Then as a participant, when you see a problem solving meeting on your calendar, you know, to look for what do I need to do to prepare? I need to look for the information, the context, so I can come into that meeting with shared understanding. So we can dive into unpacking the problem, unpacking brainstorming ideas, coming a decision on a conclusion. So we actually break down what goes into that template for that meeting. Type into a number of different components, one of which is what do people need to do to prepare? Another component might be who needs to be here? And that could be very specific people, but it could also be role types, or it could be to be determined based on the topic of that meeting. But having it in there prompts you as the meeting leader to ask those questions, as you’re designing your agenda, as you’re filling it in. And as a participant, when you get invited to a meeting now you know you’ve been invited because you fit into some category that has been articulated as important to this desired outcome, to this type of meeting getting accomplished. So it reduces the number of invites you get, because you’re not just getting invited to random ABC meeting because the leader thinks you should be there, but you’re actually being intentionally invited because you have something uniquely valuable to contribute to that discussion. What would you suggest for leaders who hear this and say, okay, great, there are things that are totally within my control, like my team meeting.

Ramona Shaw [00:11:21]:

If they’re running a team that they can decide on the structure and how to prepare and how to communicate, but then there are a lot of meetings that they’re not running. So what is the best way for them to a prepare or to intentionally engage the meeting facilitators or leaders in conversations to optimize the effectiveness of meetings? So this is why the desired outcome is your best friend as a meeting leader and as a participant, because if you know what the meeting is trying to accomplish, you can make a decision for yourself as to whether that is the best use of your time. So right now for most people, if you get a calendar invite for a meeting, we have option one accept. Option two decline. Right? And the option two of decline really is only acceptable if you’re double booked in another meeting, you’re out of the office because you’re on vacation or you’re sick. That’s pretty much it. And that’s a big problem. We need to be able to have control over our time and we need to be able to say no to an invite if we don’t think it’s a good use of our time.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:12:26]:

So the question then becomes how do you know if it’s the right meeting for you? And this is again where the desired outcome comes in. If the meeting leader hasn’t told you this is what the meeting is going to accomplish. If they’ve said, hey, we’re having a budget review on Tuesday at 02:00 and you’re like, I’m not so sure that I need to be in that. The question you can ask them is twofold, one can you tell me a little more about what this meeting is intended to accomplish or what you hope this meeting will achieve. And number two, you can say something like, I have a lot of stuff going on right now. I would love to be in this meeting, but I have to prioritize my time. Is there something uniquely valuable about my presence that you have specifically invited me to join this meeting? You’re asking the meeting leader, why do you want me to be there? Is there something particular that I’m going to bring? And if, depending on the size of your team and your organization, you could also offer and say, one of my colleagues may be able to step in for me here, and I think that they could provide the same or similar value. So it gives you an opportunity to decide for yourself by asking the meeting leader and actually doing them a favor, helping them figure out what the meeting is going to achieve, helping them figure out who should be in that meeting by prompting them and saying, hey, I got this meeting, right? Can you tell me a little bit more? I hope people are now rewinding and going back wait a second.

Ramona Shaw [00:13:41]:

Let me write this down what Mamie was just saying here, because the way that you phrased it was so kind, specific, and clear to say, I do want to help. I want to be a team player. I want to collaborate, but I want to be effective. And so prioritize my time and then tell me what specific value add you’re hoping from me so I can see how I can and when I can contribute that way. And I want to add one other thing, because on that part, and I think the way you’ve framed it is so spot on, right? Like, I want to contribute my best things that I can. And that may be in the meeting, but we forget that meetings are actually a cycle. There’s the before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting. It’s a little bit of a myth that a meeting starts at noon and ends at one, and it’s the time on your calendar, because we all know that for a good meeting, there is preparation that has to happen, and there is follow through that has to happen.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:14:32]:

And so, again, if you’re invited to a meeting and it doesn’t make sense for you to be there, you can also offer to contribute before or after. So you could say something like, if you send me some materials for review, I’d be happy to write up my notes and my thoughts and share them ahead of time, or I’d be happy to take on any tasks that come out of the meeting. So please feel free to assign me anything that you think is relevant for my role. You’re telling the meeting leader, I want to support your work. I want to support the team. I want to support this meeting’s effectiveness, but being in the meeting is not the best way for me to do that. So here are other opportunities I have to support your effectiveness. Yeah.

Ramona Shaw [00:15:11]:

So well said. And I think this goes into the mindset part. Right. On one hand, there’s the tools, like you said, have a meeting portfolio, get really intentional about how you spend time in meetings yourself with your team, be really specific with that desired outcome. And then there’s the mindset part, which I think often gets overlooked because if we feel we got no control, no say, and it’s rude to reject an invitation unless we’re sick or out of office, then we feel at the effect of what the organization and the meeting culture is overall versus really saying no. I am the CEO of my role and my time. I can, in a constructive way, push back on those. And what I’ve also found with myself and with leaders that I support in a process like this is initially, people may be a little bit like, wait, what? What do you mean? When you’re not joining.

Ramona Shaw [00:16:04]:

But over time, you do this a few times, and people will, on one hand, expect you to ask those questions and be prepared to either answer those ahead of time when they invite you, or they know that an email like this might be coming, or they just stop inviting you to things that aren’t really requiring your presence. Right. They start to become more intentional. Is that what you found as well? Yes. So true. And the flip side is also true, which is that meeting leaders start having fewer meetings, and so you get invited to fewer things simply because there are fewer meetings that are happening. And the fear that I actually hear more often than someone saying, oh, my gosh, I have to say no to my boss, or I’m going to say no to a meeting. There’s a little bit of nervousness that comes from that, of course, because what if they make a decision I don’t like? And what if nobody tells me what’s going on? So there is some of that that comes, and there are ways that meeting leaders and participants can work together to solve for those.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:17:00]:

But the other fear that comes is I don’t want to offend anybody by not inviting them. And that’s to your point of if you push back on a meeting, you’re telling the meeting leader, you don’t have to invite me. I will not be offended if you don’t invite me. In fact, I will appreciate the fact that you’re being thoughtful about my time, showing me the respect that you understand that my plate is very full and I have to make choices about how I spend my time. And you’re making it easier for me by not inviting me to a meeting I don’t need to be at. So all of it is embedded in a sense of fear, right. Fear that I’m missing out on a meeting or fear that I’m going to offend somebody if they’re not there. So you do need to address those, but it’s not complicated.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:17:40]:

Most of the time, we just need to talk to people. And if you’re thinking about not inviting someone to your meeting and you’re not sure how they’re going to respond, just reach out to them. There’s this beautiful thing we call optional, and it’s another trick that managers can use to help navigate when they’re making a transition from inviting everyone to suddenly only inviting a few folks. When you reach out to people about a meeting, if I really need Mamie and Ramona’s meeting, like they’re the core to make this decision. And then a few other folks who I want to invite, they probably have some interesting things to say, but if they can’t be there, the meeting can still go on. For those folks, let them know, I’d love for you to participate, so your participation is optional. So if you have other priorities or if you have other things that need to get done, or you’re not sure that this is the best way for you to spend your time, no worries, just let me know. We don’t need you there to move this forward, but of course, we would love your perspective if you can.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:18:32]:

And that, again, empowers people to make their decision about their own time and their participation. Yeah, love that. As a caring and driven manager, I know you want to strengthen your leadership skills, advance your career, and lead a high performing, engaged team. And in order to do that, as a leader, you need to lead with a system, not by shooting from your hips or reacting to everyone else around you. To do so, you need to first, learn what should go into a leadership system and second, develop your own. Now, the good news is that I teach you. One musthave part in your leadership system in a concise, actionable and yet comprehensive course focused on running successful oneonone meetings with your direct reports. It includes over 67 minutes of Tactical Leadership Training, plus a set of resources to make this as easy and immediately applicable for you as possible.

Ramona Shaw [00:19:31]:

You can either watch the video lessons or listen to it through a private podcast feed on your phone. You can get your hands on this course, which I want every single manager to have for a nominal $19 at Ramonashaw.com one one. That’s two times the number one. You can check the show notes for the details or head on over to Ramonashaw.com Eleven to get started right now. Now, you briefly talked about meeting follow up and meeting preparation that goes into the whole concept of meetings as well. And in current times, it would be a miss if we didn’t also talk about all the AI tools that are coming out that are now incorporated beat us in teams or in zoom even. Or that we can leverage ahead of meetings or after meetings to make those meeting times more effective. What’s your take on that and what have you experienced so far as of what’s working, what isn’t working? Yeah, so I feel like anything can work for the right team.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:20:34]:

So that’s the beauty of there being so many different kinds of meeting tools that different teams and different meetings require or are optimized by different meeting tools. So I have clients who really love the transcription services that are plugged into Zoom or plug into Microsoft teams so you don’t have to take notes. You can really quickly through the AI that most of them offer now find anytime someone says task or can, sometimes we’ll even create a summary for you. So some teams really love that and find it to be a huge time saver for generating meeting notes. Other teams strongly dislike it. They really don’t like that everything you say is now officially recorded and sometimes we’re talking off the cuff and we don’t say things exactly how we want them to come out and people don’t want their word for words recorded and memorialized in these ways. So different teams need to find the right tools. The place that I find teams could do more is really around using different kinds of technology tools to facilitate activities in their meetings.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:21:40]:

And this gets to another thing that we can do better. As meeting leaders, we often think of meetings as a place for conversation and that’s true, we do need to come together and talk. But the beauty of these tools is that they allow us to get so much more thinking into the room in the same amount of time. Because everyone can contribute at once, because ideas can be made visual, because information can be documented in the process of creating the ideas or sharing the ideas. Right? If somebody is talking ideas out loud, we have to type them out. But if everyone’s contributing by typing their ideas into a mural board, then we now have a document from our meeting or a virtual whiteboard from our meeting that has information on it that’s valuable far beyond the conversation. So using facilitative tools during our meetings is a place where teams can really dive deep and find so much richness. That creates greater psychological safety because people can share anonymously.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:22:37]:

It creates more opportunities and equity because you’re not having to pass around the mic to the loudest person. It also allows for introverts or people who are quieter to share in ways that maybe are a little more comfortable for them. So there’s just so much good that can come from these kind of virtual tools to get really tactical there. What are some maybe your top three virtual tools that help with facilitation? So. I really love mind maps. That’s one of my favorite tools to use as a meeting facilitator and MindMeister is one of my favorites. It’s super easy because it’s free and you don’t need people to create an account to be able to participate on your board. And you can do really fun things with moving content around and flagging and dot voting and all kinds of cool stuff that I find to just be very engaging.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:23:28]:

So that’s one of my favorites. Mural is also a fabulous tool that has tons and tons and tons of different kinds of boards that you can create, including mind maps, but also many others. So sticky notes or different kinds of process charts and whiteboards. So that has a lot of diversity in its toolbox. So I know some teams really love that, but it is a little more complicated to use and so you really do need to commit, which is part of using technology is you want people to be comfortable in the meeting using it. So if you’re going to go with something like Mural, I always suggest that teams start by having a team orientation where you have a meeting, where the desired outcome of the meeting is for all of us to have a basic comfort with using this tool in our future meetings. That way, when you pull up a mural board and your next meeting, you’re not spending 20 minutes trying to explain to someone. Click on the little plus sign in the top left corner.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:24:20]:

That’s how you add the shape. And they’re like, Where is you don’t want to waste your precious meeting time with that kind of technical stuff. So instead, collectively as a team, learn the tool together, practice using it in a non meeting environment so that when everyone does come together for the meeting, you can just hit the ground running. Those are two of my favorite. I feel like I could go on, but I feel like that’s probably a good stuff for now. Yeah, this is great. And also I took a quick note here because I heard now a few times in what you’re saying. On one hand there’s the individual responsibility of what all we can choose.

Ramona Shaw [00:24:57]:

On the other hand, there are things that tie into the company culture, the values and the principles that are being followed be this hey, we believe in the collaborative, inclusive approach that goes beyond just conversation but uses visual tools. That is one way that we facilitate meetings. Just like some companies say we want to be on video, turn your videos on for specific meetings or all the time. The other one is the declining of meetings for that to be culturally accepted as when you get an invite, you do have the right to decline the meeting with ideally or maybe by expectation with a response back to the meeting host. But those are all things that can get culturally anchored and then make it easier for all the participants to follow through or have the mandate to think about these different tools. Is that what you experience with teams that tie that meeting. Culture into the bigger culture of the organization. Yeah.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:25:56]:

Yes. And it goes both ways, right? Sometimes meeting practices get anchored from the bottom up. And as meeting leaders are running their meetings in these ways, as teams are creating more effective meetings, they’re creating more psychological safety, they’re creating richness of dialogue, they’re building stronger relationships. All of those good things are happening. All of those people also have tentacles into other parts of the organization. And I have seen where meeting leaders start sharing their practices with other team members or when you have cross functional teams, someone experiences some of these meeting practices in a different department and they’re like, oh, that’s really exciting. I’m going to bring some of that back to my team. So we see it can have a trickle up experience across teams as well as starting at the top and coming down.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:26:42]:

And it’s really powerful when leaders at the top say, we’re going to revisit our meetings. We’re actually going to look at this as a core part of how our work gets done, one of our core processes and what it says about our culture and the way that we have our meetings. One of my favorite little nuggets is that meetings are really a microcosm of your organization. They’re where dynamics of power play out. They’re where it becomes very clear around your productivity practices if time is respected, how technology is used, whether relationships are strong or weak. There’s so many things that play out in meetings that when you change your meetings, whether it’s from the bottom up or from the top down, it can have transformative power in so many other ways because now people have relationships that are additive to other ways that we communicate. Now we have practices that help us be more efficient in our work that can then expand into other kinds of efficiency practices outside, like keeping track of our next steps. Where does that happen? If you have a good practice for keeping track of your next steps in your meetings, it can lead to better practices, keeping track of other kinds of project work that’s happening.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:27:55]:

So we just see that it really does expand out and create a stronger culture when you have good meeting practices. Yeah. And I think that this is really important to emphasize. We all have the ability to contribute individually to that meeting culture because what I experience often with talking with leaders about this is they feel at the effect of poor meetings, the company meetings are poorly run. The bigger team meetings, all these one on one meetings, it’s like almost that’s just how it’s done here. And I’m part of that versus really saying, no, I’m going to take ownership here and I’m going to change things up. That may be very different to what currently happens in the organization, but that is your prerogative. Yeah.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:28:37]:

And part of that problem is that as a meeting leader, you are already planning or designing meetings that serve you. If you’re the one who’s holding the meeting, you’re rarely the one walking away from that meeting going, oh, that was horrible. Most of the time, it’s the participants who are feeling that way because you, as the meeting leader, you have all the stuff in your head already. You know what you’re trying to accomplish in that meeting. You know how you’re thinking the agenda is going to flow. And so you’ve really designed it almost just naturally to meet your needs. But that doesn’t mean that it’s working for everyone. And so what I find is that people at the top of the organization sometimes don’t realize how much their meetings are really problematic for the organization, either the meetings that they’re leading or just meetings in general throughout the organization.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:29:28]:

Because if you’re used to planning meetings, you think they’re pretty good because you’re the planner. And I’ll tell you this. This is how I got into this business, was because early on in my career, I landed on this idea that maybe meetings were something that teams could do better. And I started talking to people about their meetings, and no one ever said, oh, man, I led the worst meeting today. No one ever said that to me. But everyone had a story about a meeting that they had attended that someone else was leading that was so bad. So as meeting leaders, we need to recognize that even if we think our meetings are okay, and maybe they are great, but do the work to talk to your team about are these meetings working for you? Are they serving us as a senior leader in an organization? Are our meeting practices helping us get to the best thinking? Are they the best use of time? Are our meetings helping us move work forward at a pace that is more rapid than if we were doing everything outside of a meeting? So we need to recognize as leaders that sometimes we’re the problem. And that’s not a bad thing because it means that we have the opportunity to be part of the solution.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:30:37]:

But we have to be willing to look at our own meetings and not just other people’s meetings. Gosh, there’s so many questions that popped up in my head that leaders could ask their team. But I love the fact that you point out oftentimes when we’re running the meetings, we don’t recognize that they may not be perceived as so effective and people tune out. So when we are dealing with this question, how do I create more engagement in the meetings that I’m running? Why do people speaking up? Why is no one commenting or no one responding? Why is no one turning on the cameras even though I asked them all these questions and maybe good indicators to do a quick pulse check and say, what can we do differently? How is this working for you? What were the least effective meetings the last two weeks, what were the most effective and why? Just really having that, being able to look at it and being vulnerable that way. But like you said, I think there’s so much that can be uncovered and then that allows us to actually make changes and create more effective meetings because we understand how other people perceive it. You talk in your book about poor meetings, sabotaging someone’s career or negatively impacting our careers. What are the challenges here to really emphasize this one more time of why meeting management? Matt, there’s so much. It’s not just about productivity, but what else is at stake? Yeah.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:31:54]:

So you think about the job of a manager. There’s a joke that says the job of a manager is to attend meetings. Right? And that’s what we do all the time. We run meetings, we attend meetings, we use meetings to talk with our colleagues. So meetings are an essential and huge part of a manager’s job. So if you are not running good meetings, if you have not figured out how to use your meetings to build those relationships, to foster a healthy culture, to move work forward, then you’re going to be ultimately holding yourself back in your career because you’re not going to get as much done as a team leader. Your team is not going to be as successful. Your team members individually are not going to be as successful as they could be.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:32:37]:

So when you think about what it takes to advance in a career, part of it is your own skill development and other things that you’ve accomplished. But part of it is related to how is your team succeeding? And if your team isn’t doing its best work, if your team members aren’t being their best selves because your meetings are not allowing for that to happen, you’re only holding yourself and your team back. And so it is a part of a bigger trajectory. And again, as you move up the ladder, different kinds of meetings need to happen. You’re going to have a different role to play. Your power dynamic is going to shift, so you’re going to have to constantly be reevaluating. What kinds of meetings do I need to be having? What does that mean for me as a meeting leader? How do I need to show up in these different kinds of meetings with my role, with my colleagues and continuing to enhance your meeting leadership skills? Because the more you can do that, the easier it will be for you to accomplish the bigger picture goals that you have. Yeah.

Ramona Shaw [00:33:36]:

If I try to summarize the immediate action items, here the takeaways for anyone listening. One is assessing which meetings are you attending that maybe you shouldn’t attend. Be more discerning about your attendance. Second is to look at which meetings have what kind of purposes on the desired outcome. The desired outcome? What’s the desired outcome for the meetings that I run? And how clearly articulated is that then asking for feedback from the team? What else would you say? Maybe two other things that you’d say after listening to this. Go do it. So one is, think about what people can do to prepare for meetings, especially for meetings that you’re leading. We waste so much time in our meetings sharing information, telling people what they need to know.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:34:21]:

And we have wonderful other modes to do that. We can record an audio message. We can record a video or a screen, share walking through a PowerPoint. We can send a memo. There are just much better ways that we can share information than doing it live in person. Because we’ve all been in that meeting where someone says, all right, I’m going to give you some context, and then we’ll dive in. And then 20 minutes in, they’re still giving context. You’re like, this meeting is supposed to be over in ten minutes.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:34:44]:

When are we going to have a chance to share our thoughts? So don’t waste your time in the meeting, because that time is so precious. You have those people together only for a short amount of time. So you want to use it to get as much thinking in the room, to get as much dialogue or as much contribution into whatever kinds of tools you’re using. Right? You want to use that time because it’s precious. Don’t use your meeting time for sharing information. Think instead about pre work. What you can do to give people information so they walk in the door ready to dive in, or what people can do ahead of time, what thinking they can do, what reflecting, what questions they can be answering, what brainstorming they might be able to do, so that again, when they walk in the door, they are ready to dive in. Beautiful.

Ramona Shaw [00:35:26]:

So anything else you want to add that we haven’t talked about yet? All right, the last one, because I have to give you one more thing, which is at the end of the meeting, the last five minutes of your meeting, you want to reserve for what we call a wrap up, because so many meetings end with, I have to hop to my next call, or this was great. I think we got everything we needed. Good job, everyone. And we don’t actually know what are the next steps, who is doing what, what decisions did we actually agree to? And is there information that colleagues who aren’t here need to know? And if so, are we agreeing on what that information is? So if you use your last five minutes as a wrap up, instead of taking notes throughout the meeting, you can take your notes collectively in those five minutes. So one person could be you, the meeting leader, but could be anybody on the team, can type up either into a shared document or wherever you store your meeting notes. What are the decisions that we’ve made? Recap it. State it. Out loud.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:36:20]:

Ask the team. Let’s write it down so we’re all really clear about the decision. And if you can remember also, why did we make this decision? What were the key criteria, the key factors that said this is the right decision for us? So that people who are reading those notes after, who weren’t in the conversation can have that context. It actually helps them do better work by understanding not just what the decision was, but also why this was the decision. So you want to capture that. Of course you want to capture next steps. Who’s going to do what by when? Just ask the group, what are our next steps? Can everyone just go around and share what they think needs to happen next and if they’re going to do it? And then lastly, for the folks who aren’t here, what do they need to know? What are the key? Takeaways the highlights. That big information.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:37:04]:

Let’s just jot it down really quickly so that these notes right here can be sent off to folks who aren’t here. And they will have everything they need to know to be able to continue to do their work in alignment with the outcomes of this meeting. Love it. And when you think about the last five minutes and really dedicate to that, we start to manage our time throughout the meeting differently, right? Maybe even leading into it, saying we have until 1025, and then we’ll spend five minutes recapping. Everyone knows we’re going to wrap that conversation up then, because what we all know is a day full of meetings. And by the end of the day, you jump in your inbox or your Slack notifications, and at that point, your brain is too full and too tired to remember what happened during the day. And you also don’t feel inclined or motivated to go back and track meeting notes. So building that into the day and into the meeting time slot.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:37:54]:

Exactly. And it’s totally fine if you like taking notes by hand, do that. Encourage everyone in the meeting to be taking their own personal notes in whatever format works for them. And then at the very end, you save all that time of having to retype notes by just building it digitally together so it’s easily accessible by everyone and easily shareable, and it takes no more time. This is one of those things that people are always like, oh, but I like scratching notes by hand. I like having my notebook. Great. Do it.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:38:18]:

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do whatever works for you, but you want to make sure that at the end you have a collective set of notes that everyone can reference. Awesome. Thank you, Rami, so much for this conversation. And I feel like we touched on many different topics, but I also know that your expertise goes way deeper. I love the way that you phrase and articulate questions or prompts that other leaders can use and build into their own vocabulary, meeting management vocabulary, to get it more effective in the way that they set the tone, make asks or even decline meetings. And you have several of those in your book. So we will link to your book in the Show Notes. I recommend everyone listening to check that out.

Ramona Shaw [00:38:59]:

To really work on your skill set and your maybe default responses or available responses for how you set meetings, how you invite people right, how you guide through them, what you do when someone goes off a tangent, how you bring them back into the main conversation, how you close meetings, follow up and all of that. And your work is so tactical and yet also connects it back to the bigger picture of the organizational culture. I definitely really enjoyed it and think it’s a very valuable read and asset to dive into. So all that in the show notes. Is there anything that you want to share with the audience before we wrap up the huge thank you? I mean, meetings are my passion, and it makes me so happy to know that anyone who’s listening to this conversation is going to go do something right. That is the best thing that we can do as managers is take what we’re learning and take action. Which is why so much of what I do and what I teach is really practical. Because at the end of the day, meetings should be a place that you feel good about as a meeting leader that your team feels good about.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:40:02]:

They can be a wonderful part of how work gets done. So if you’re listening and you go and do one thing that you learned today, you have just made me the happiest person on Earth. Yes. And that gets a high five. Yes. Mary, thank you so much for being here. We will link to your LinkedIn profile, the Mother Manager podcast, and of course, your book in the Show Notes. I appreciate you taking the time and sharing your wisdom here.

Ramona Shaw [00:40:25]:

Now everyone listening. Go out, review your meetings, get some feedback, and take some of the actions that we’ve discussed here on the show. Thank you, mamie. Thank you. If you enjoyed this episode, then check out two other awesome resources to help you become a leader people love to work with. This includes my best selling book, The Confident and Competent New Manager, which you can find on Amazon or at Book, and a free training on how to successfully lead as a new manager. You can check it out@ramonashaw.com, masterclass these resources and a couple more you’ll find in the Show Notes down below.


1. What are some specific challenges or downsides of poorly run meetings that organizations commonly face? How can these challenges be addressed and overcome?

2. How can improving meeting management skills and default responses positively impact the overall effectiveness and enjoyment of meetings?

3. How can meeting leaders ensure that each meeting has a clear purpose or desired outcome? What steps can be taken to prepare and provide the necessary context for participants?

4. What are some potential benefits of transforming meetings to be more efficient and enjoyable? How can these changes enhance relationships and productivity in other areas of work?

5. How can meeting leaders avoid endless or unproductive meetings? What strategies can be implemented to set clear goals and ensure that the agenda supports the desired outcomes?




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