CBS News has reported that  "professionals lose 31 hours per month to unproductive meetings. That's four work days each month."  Furthermore, "73 percent of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings and 39 percent even dozed off in meetings."

    In a world that needs Not-For-Profit organizations to have as much productive time to achieve as much good as possible, we need to get better at running effective meetings. How can we create meetings that will scaffold for the success of our mission? Over the course of the next four days, I will offer you 4 simple strategies you can implement for your next meeting. 

   Our first step is foundational so please pay attention.

STEP 1:  Set and Send Out a Well-Crafted Agenda for the Meeting.

   Most of us know, it is a sensible practice to have an agenda planned for a meeting. The problem is that most of us fail to do it. There is an age-old saying, that I am sure you know, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." You can apply this truth to a hosting an effective meeting.  

   A strong agenda will require 20-30 minutes of preparation to craft. Taking the time to think through what needs to be discussed and collaborated as a team will make use of the meeting time more productive. Only include items on the agenda that are essential to this specific group of team members.  

    Many leaders mistakenly use agendas to be a space where they can dump all of their ideas - whether or not it is related to the upcoming schedule, budget, or team. Do not give into the temptation of allowing an agenda to become a wish list. Carefully select only the most relevant items to make the cut of what is to be discussed and given action.

  Once you have created your agenda, send it to the relevant people who will be in attendance of the meeting at least 24 hours in advance. Ask your team to review the items and to ready to actively bring solutions, ideas, and action steps to the table. By empowering your team with a well-crafted agenda, you are given an opportunity to prepare their voice and their perspective to meet the needs of the task at hand.

  One last comment:

     Be faithful to the agenda. Though rabbit trails are inevitable, it is the leader's responsibility to hold the meeting accountable to the agenda. By doing this, you will be establishing creditability as a leader who possesses vision and is able to navigate the team in seeing the vision become reality. In a nutshell, sticking to the agenda will prove that you are a leader not easily distracted.

   What do you do with ideas or problems that are NOT on the agenda? Write them down. Communicate to your team that you will give thought to what has been brought to the table and that a later time these additionals items will be discussed when it is relevant. Never dismiss or discredit the validity of the additional items that have surfaced. They just might be on the next meeting's agenda...


Stay tuned for Step 2 in How To Run an Effective Meeting Series!

Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years.