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Meeting Leaders Need to be Tough

Here are some simple rules that ensure meeting success:

  1. everyone comes prepared,
  2. during the meeting everyone listens more than they speak,
  3. everyone keeps the meeting purpose in mind and works toward achieving it,
  4. everyone carries out agreed actions after the meeting even if they personally disagree with what was decided.

Apparently those simple rules are hard to follow for some people and that is where the meeting leader needs to step up and earn their salary. You need to be tough.

Tough: the word probably conjures up the wrong image. Unfortunately too many people confuse tough with aggressive or nasty. Maybe "firm" or "resolute" might be better words to describe how a good meeting leader should behave. 

Here are some simple things you can do to be tough without making yourself and others feel uncomfortable:

  1. Give ample warning of the consequences of certain behaviours and ensure everyone agrees. So for example if you get everyone to agree that they must prepare for meetings and that the consequence of coming to the meeting unprepared is that they won't be able to attend, will have no say over what is decided and will have to abide by the decisions.  This essentially gives you permission to be tough when the time comes. The most difficult part is that you need to ensure you are completely consistent in applying the rules; no exceptions.
  2. As the meeting leader be on the look out for one thing: interruptions. If one person interrupts, stop the meeting and give the floor back to the person who was interrupted. Make sure that everyone understands that they can't interrupt. When the original person has finished speaking go back to the person who interrupted and reward their patience by giving them the floor, "Mike, you have something to say on this?"
  3. Make sure people have he meeting purpose in mind. Remind them between each agenda item. To do this as you introduce the next agenda item mention how it is relevant to the overall purpose of the meeting. "This is the next agenda item and it is relevant to the purpose of the meeting because..."
  4. Follow up on actions at an agreed date. Always chase actions from meetings. Make sure that people who take an action in your meetings know that they will be held accountable for carrying it out. The first thing to do when creating an action in a meeting is to pause to ensure that it is the right action and that the person responsible agrees that they are responsible and will complete the action in time. They must make a public commitment to the action during the meeting. By pausing and checking with the person that they will definitely do the action, that they are capable of doing it, have the resources to do it and that it is sufficiently high priority for them then you increase the chances of it getting done on time.

Remember toughness is not about being agressive, shouting or throwing your weight about. It is about keeping the objective in mind and being resolute about achieving the goal.

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