Great Meetings

Meeting participant to meeting lead

So you’ve just been promoted inside your company. Congratulations! You now have more responsibility, a bigger pay-cheque, and all of a sudden you’re shifting from participating in meetings to leading them. This last change can be nerve-wracking, but we’ve put together five simple tips to make your first meeting run smoothly.

Do use your insider knowledge

An internal promotion means an image adjustment. Your former coworkers need to learn to see you as a manager and vice versa: sometimes hard to do with the people you used to complain with about the boss at Friday drinks. You can’t erase your employment history but you can use it to your advantage. And when it comes to meetings you have the upper hand. You’re already aware of the meeting culture in your workplace, what works, and what doesn’t. Before you lead your first meeting, honestly assess your experiences as a meeting participant. Were you often watching the clock in meetings that weren’t relevant for you? Hone your attendee list to people who really need to be there. Was there one person who invariably took over the discussion? Be aware of this dynamic and make sure you call on others to speak. But remember, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If the monday morning stand up at your firm runs like clockwork and sets a clear action plan for the week, well, why change it?

Do introduce yourself

Once again, your internal promotion works to your advantage. It’s likely that everyone attending your first meeting knows you, and that you know them, as well. So, good news! You can dispense with the awkward ice-breakers. But that doesn’t mean you can get away with a quick greeting before you move to the first item on your agenda. You still need to introduce yourself as a manager: now’s the time to briefly let everyone know what your leadership philosophy is and what your priorities will be going forward. You might feel it’s a little arrogant to share your ‘mission statement’ with your former co-workers, but you needn’t. Everyone, including you, will appreciate having a clear sense of your management strategy.

Do find a balance

The best meetings tend to mix structure and flexibility, but while that’s still true, your role in this process has shifted. Previously, it was up to you to participate: to brainstorm, to question, to contribute. Now, you still have to participate, but you also need to facilitate. Be prepared with questions and talking points to generate discussion. At the same time, don’t forget it’s up to you to keep the group on task. When conversation and ideas are flowing it can be tempting not to interrupt but if this happens you’ll need to make a call. You can firmly tell everyone it’s time to move on to the next item or, if the conversation is productive, you can strike some items off the agenda to make time for it. Sometimes leading a meeting means sticking to the structure; sometimes leading a meeting means spontaneously adjusting its structure.

Don’t say ‘My door is always open’

Feedback is crucial and, from your very first meeting as a new manager, it’s critical that meeting participants feel they can approach you with questions, ideas, and concerns arising from action items. Which is why we’re telling you not to say: My door is always open. Sure, it makes you sound approachable but really it puts the responsibility on your team to seek you out, when it should be the other way round. Be proactive: schedule regular one-on-one or small group feedback sessions between meetings. They’ll keep you informed and they’ll keep your team on track.

Don’t worry – you’ve got this!

At Doodle we know a thing or two about meetings that work. And trust us: if you outline your management strategy, focus on facilitating as well as participating, and create a culture of feedback, you’ll be leading Great Meetings in no time.

By Jessica Miller

Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin.

1 comment on “Meeting participant to meeting lead

  1. Jessica, you make a great point. Setting meetings to “touch base” are crucial. However, as a recent subordinate in a sales role, nothing made me cringe more than using that time to touch account points rather than to touch me.
    When I changed to a role where I was tracking deal closes with account executives that I partnered with from more than a dozen internal and external teams as an Enterprise Mobility Solution Engineer, I set two appointments – one that went over business primarily, and one that may have appeared to be a bit more social, but was actually one of my differentiators; it was a meeting for support. In that meeting I found out the challenges behind the challenges to closing deals, the issues keeping my teammates from being able to get their deals to close, and who at their customer’s business was stopping deals from moving forward, then we got on the phone together and I helped that executive move the deal forward. Or we would brainstorm. Or we would write letters, find resources or do whatever we needed to so deals would keep moving together. It was this extra push behind the scenes that helped make it appear that our jobs were often easier than they were. The fact was, we had one another’s back, just as you say, and it all comes down to using efficient scheduling as you manage and own the customer experience. And who owns the customer experience in your company? You all should. And who is your customer? Remember you must manage up as you manage down, so EVERYONE is your customer!
    Great colum!

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