As a pastor, your time is a hot commodity. One major time-taker is meetings. Many leaders dread meetings as a necessary evil, feeling a strong connection to Lencioni’s best-selling title, Death by Meeting. While meetings are an inevitable necessity in leadership, they can become time-consuming.
I once worked for an organization that had meetings for everything. We had meetings about upcoming meetings. There were times when I received meeting invites to follow up on meetings that hadn’t yet occurred. My calendar was filled with meetings that could have been a quick phone call, text discussion, or email.
Instead, when leaders manage meetings properly, they can be productive, time-well-used tools. Effective meetings have several necessary components, as they must be:
Often, meetings simply become routine with little forethought or intentionality. Intentional meetings include:
A Clear Purpose – Leaders should ask why this meeting? What do we want to accomplish? Where are we heading? How will this meeting get us there? Let those attending the meeting know the purpose of the meeting in advance and at the start of the meeting.
A Planned Agenda – Without preparing an agenda, it is hard for leaders and attendees to navigate discussions to meet the goal of the meeting. An agenda acts as a road map to keep conversations on course. Distribute the agenda, preferably before the meeting, rather than holding onto it like it is a secret family recipe.
A psychologically safe environment is one in which team members feel safe to take interpersonal risks. Safe meetings create:
Constructive Challenge – Team members are open, honest, and candid in their discussions around the meeting topic. Safety encourages healthy, constructive task-conflict.
Buy-In – As team members contribute and feel heard their commitment increases. Here is a time-saving formula: psychological safety = open/candid discussion = buy-in = fewer meetings dealing with non-commitment, readdressing issues, discussing alternatives, refocusing team members, and so on.
Meetings are for dynamic discussion and productive progress rather than simple information-sharing, speeches, or training, which all have their own place. Practical meetings have:
Norms – Meeting norms provide the boundaries for proper discussion and acceptable behavior. Group members should agree on how they will communicate, cooperate, and collaborate, and hold each other accountable to these norms.
Action Steps – Meetings should provide team members with action steps and responsibilities. Everyone leaving the meeting should know what specific, measurable steps are to be taken by whom.
Working Towards the Mission
The team’s mission should ground the meeting like it does all other tasks. As the leader, it is your job to keep team members focused on the mutual goal, which encourages openness, increases personal risk-taking, and provides common ground around which to have challenging conversations and purposeful decisions. When meetings become intentional, safe, and practical, leaders and team members will find themselves spending more time working toward the mission than time sitting in non-essential meetings. As you make sure these components are part of your meetings, you may not find meetings to be any easier, but you will lead them to be more productive.