Running a Meeting: With Your Manager or Employees

General skills for running a meeting; the first thing you need to think about when you’re going to run a meeting is do you even need to have a meeting? Is a meeting going to be necessary? Would it be better and faster just to send an email or go and talk to one or two people? There’s no point in getting a whole bunch of people into a room to have a meeting about something that you don’t really need to have a meeting about. I had lots of really pointless meetings where a couple of emails would have sufficed easily. Send out the agenda in advance so people know what they’re going to be talking about. It sets expectations for what the goals and the take-aways of the meeting are going to be. It sets expectations for what people are supposed to bring to the meeting in terms of their opinions, in terms of any documents or any kind of information that might be required for the meeting to continue. Only those people that need to be there to meet the take-aways and goals of the meeting should be invited. There’s no point in having a huge number of people in a meeting because the more people that are there, the harder it is to control the meeting and the harder it is to know your audience. When people are in the meeting, ask them to close their laptops unless they’re the person that’s presenting or taking notes, so it encourages them to listen in to the meeting, to participate and to help the meeting further its goals. Try to stick to the meeting start time, even if a few people are late. Unless they’re absolutely critical to be there for the entire meeting, don’t waste people’s time by waiting for a couple of stragglers. Stick to what the agenda of the meeting is. Don’t let it get completely derailed. And try to control the meeting as well, to make sure it moves forward. But make sure there’s a balance with making the meeting move forward and progressing towards the goals, and letting people get their views out there and heard by everybody else in the meeting. You don’t want to be completely draconian and make sure that the meeting just progresses really, really, really fast, without people being able to feel like they’ve participated in the meeting. Make sure that somebody is taking notes. Either you or if you’re not able to take notes because you’re going to be presenting and running the meeting, someone you’ve asked and designated takes notes. And then once the meeting has finished, send out a recap of the meeting to all of the attendees so everybody gets a chance to see what you think occurred during the meeting and to argue and correct any misinterpretations that there were. This is also good self-protection. If somewhere later down the line somebody forgets, conveniently, what was discussed in the meeting, everybody has a recap of the meeting notes so there’s no ambiguity about what there was discussed. In other words, don’t have too many people in a team and don’t have too many people in a meeting. I’ve been in meetings before where there’s 20 or 30 people and it’s almost impossible to make progress. It’s like making decisions by committee. It’s never a really good idea. Try to keep the meeting as small as possible.

Meetings With Your Manager
There’s probably nobody else at your company that’s more important to you and your career than your manager. They’re going to be responsible for your review, to have input into your pay raises, your bonuses, your promotions and everything you’re doing. So you have to get them on your side. Even if you don’t like them or what they stand for, be nice to them because they are the most important person that you deal with. You need to let your manager know what kind of communication style works for you. They may have a certain type of communication style that they like to practice, but that might not work for you. Everybody’s different. So, do you like being micro-managed or do you prefer a more hands-off approach? Do you like to be given lots of feedback or do you like not to get lots of feedback? Do you like to discuss things in person? Do you like to pick up the phone or do you like to respond to an email? You’re going to end up having one on one meetings with your manager but you need to remember that those one on one meetings is your time with the manager, not their time with you. That means though that the onus is on you to bring topics to discuss. You’re going to have to figure out what you need to get from your manager and that could be discussing career situations. It could be discussing the technical problems that you’ve had and how to work around them. It could be discussing how to relate to people on your team. You need to remember that the meeting benefits you, so it’s up to you to bring a bunch of things to discuss with your manager. Now, if you can’t think of things to discuss, hopefully, you’ve got a good manager and the manager is going to help you think of interesting things that are going to help further your career that he or she can help you with. Don’t let your manager just make your one on ones be about weekly status. You can do that in email or you can do that in a weekly status meeting with the rest of your team. Now having a remote manager where they’re in a different site from you or maybe you telework and work from home, can be very, very tough because out of sight, out of mind, as the old saying goes. You’re not thinking about your manager so much and the manager’s not thinking about you because you don’t see each other every day. There you’re going to have to work a little bit harder to cultivate a communication style with your manager, to cultivate a relationship with him or her. You’re likely going to see them once a quarter or so but having a long gap between communications means you don’t want to have it just based on email. You want to hear the other person’s voice so you can hear what kind of communication style they have. Apply the remote meeting skills that we talked about a couple of slides ago, to any kind of telephone meeting with a remote manager. Remember you don’t have the ability to see their body language so maybe you ask that you use a webcam every time you’re meeting so you can get a feel for how each other looks and how each other behaves under certain different types of situations. Now if you have any kind of problem with your manager, try to work it out with your manager first before going over their head, because if you immediately go over your manager’s head to their manager or even a couple of skip-level managers, it can be really bad, because that creates a bad feeling that you couldn’t work things out with your manager. And remember, your manager is the person that’s in control of your career and you want to stay on their good side.

Meetings With Your Employees
Anytime you are responsible for a team of people, you’re going to have a mix of personalities in your team, which means that you can’t have just one communication style that fits everybody. You’re going to have different levels of technical competency. You’re going to different levels of communication skill competency amongst your team and your team members are going to respond to different kinds of communication and management styles. And you’re going to have to figure out what those are; whether for instance, they like to be micro-managed or not. Some general considerations for you; anytime you’ve got some feedback for somebody on the team, give them the feedback as soon as possible, whether that’s positive feedback or constructive feedback. You need to find out how each employee likes to receive feedback. Do they like to receive an email first so they can kind of think about it? Do they like to be told in person or on the phone? Anytime that you’re giving a large amount of feedback like an employee review, there shouldn’t be any surprises for the employee. If you surprise the employee during a review, apart from giving them a promotion or something nice, then you’ve failed. If for instance the review says well, a couple of months ago you did this thing and I really hoped you wouldn’t have done that thing and you carried on doing it, but you didn’t tell the employee, the employee is going to look at you and think, why on earth didn’t you tell me a couple of months ago? That does not create a good situation. Now as a manager, you can’t always expect your employees to like you, but you do want to get their respect as their manager and their technical leader and their career leader. One thing to bear in mind is that if you become your friend’s manager, then the relationship between you and your friends might change. It can be very difficult to draw the line between management and friendship, especially if you have to give constructive feedback to one of your new team members who is or was one of your really good friends. That can create some resentment and there’s no easy way around that. You just have to deal with the fact that you’re the manager now and you have to be able to draw the line between management and friendship. You should have regular one on one meetings with your employees and that helps you to build a relationship with them and a rapport with them. It helps you get to know a little more about them rather than just being a member of the team. Remember though that these one on one meetings are not status reports. You can do status reporting in emails or status report meetings. One on one meetings is the employees’ time to interact with you to talk about things they want to talk about. It doesn’t work the other way around. They’re not your meetings, they’re the employees’ meetings. So you need to find out what they want to talk about. Now it could be that you’ve got employees that don’t really know what they should be talking to you about in a one on one, so you can give them some ideas about things that they could do to help their career development. Certain skills that you may be able to help them with, for instance, inbox management. Talking through any kind of work problems or team issues that they’ve contributed to and want to get some help with. There’s a whole bunch of things you can do to help your employees that aren’t just status reports.