How to herd cats

HumanergyMeetingsHow to herd cats




How to herd cats

You’re scheduled for a meeting next week, and you receive the agenda in your email. You’re pleased to see that there is a designated facilitator for the meeting, but not so thrilled that it’s you. If your meetings are like mine, they can sometimes feel like herding cats. So how do you keep meetings flowing and productive?

  1. Have a designated facilitator. Without a person responsible to move the meeting forward, chaos will likely ensue. Does this mean that this person is solely responsible to keep the process moving? Nope. Every attendee is responsible for speaking up if the meeting is getting off track.
  2. Know what you need to achieve. You may know what you need to talk about, but have you defined the outputs you need from the meeting? If you don’t know where you’re going (like whether you need to make a decision on X or brainstorm options for Y), no one knows what a “successful meeting” means. So you’ll be heading in multiple directions, which is never a productive exercise.
  3. Practice gentle firmness. That may sound like it’s an oxymoron.However, gentle firmness is key for facilitation of meetings. While “hey, idiot, get back on topic!” may be what you’re thinking, “let’s put that on next month’s agenda” is a better option.
  4. Develop a code. Some teams benefit from having a standard meeting vocabulary, as suggested by Roger Schwarz in HBR’s article on 8 Ground Rules for Great Meetings. If you use terminology like “parking lot” for things that need to be addressed later, make sure everyone knows what they mean.

Meetings get a bad rap, and often it’s well-deserved. Make the most of your time together by agreeing on what you need to get done and how you’ll chart a course for accomplishing your objectives.


Got a marvelous meeting method? Comment below or message us here.

Photo from AdobeStock.



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Comments (3)

  1. Our company uses the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) developed by Gino Wickman. Meetings are very productive for the following reasons: 1) consistent weekly meeting with same definitive start and end time; 2) same agenda schedule each meeting which includes check-in, review of metrics, projects and to-do list from last meeting and headlines on customers/employees; 3) ongoing “Issues List” from which topics are chosen to “identify, discuss and solve.” This list can be added to during a meeting or if an issue is seen as a future topic it is placed on the Quarterly list; and 5) if discussion goes off topic, anyone can state “Tangent” which signals to everyone to get back on task.

  2. The method we discussed during our High Performance Leaders class works great for me. Thanks for the blog posts. It is a nice break from the work day and reminds me of many items I should keep in the front of my mind that for some reason tend to fall away from view.

  3. John Barrett just mentioned that meeting outputs are like cat food. Knowing what you need to achieve will keep your cats focused and get the results you need.

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