Did the title confuse you? Are you thinking, “Why do I need to know this? I don’t lead meetings. I go to them?” That might seem true, but you may be leading more meetings than you are aware of. Or are you thinking, “There’s no such thing as a great meeting?” That, sadly, is true all too often, but you can set a different tone.
The first thing to keep in mind is not every meeting is called a “meeting.” Do you have a training session for library volunteers? Perhaps you do a 10-minute talk for a grade level when they come into your library or a subject area review. In many aspects, these are meetings and how your deliver them is important. The more focused you are, the more impact you will have, and the more you will be seen as a leader in your community.
Even if you don’t do any of the above, you attend meetings. Are you aware that there’s a way of leading from the middle? I do it all the time. It is also a great way to get your feet wet as a leader on a larger stage.
Lolly Daskal proposes 5 “P’s” in explaining How to Lead More Effective Meetings and Get Better Results. When you are leading from the middle, these P’s will help you recognize why a meeting goes well or poorly. You can also use them to quietly steer that meeting in a more productive direction.
Here are the 5 P’s to keep in mind:
Purpose – What’s the agenda? How many faculty meetings have you attended where the agenda is “This is our time for a faculty meeting”? Remember Purpose = Mission. In other words, it is what drives what is to happen. Everyone should know this in advance. If you are leading the faculty meeting from the middle, restate what seems to be the purpose. Be succinct. Ask it as a clarifying question.
When actually leading a meeting, be sure to inform all attendees of the purpose and do your best to send the agenda well in advance. Ask for any additions. When the meeting starts everyone will be prepared, but you should also restate the purpose as you begin.
Preparation –When leading from the middle, take time to review the agenda in advance . If one isn’t sent, try to anticipate the topics most likely to be raised. What do you have to contribute? Do remember that at most faculty meetings, the dominating purpose of attendees is to get out fast, so be succinct and don’t talk too often.
You would never be unprepared for a meeting you lead, but knowing the content of what you want to present is not enough. Think of why it is important for those coming. What should they do as a result? Also, where might you expect pushback? If so, how will you manage it? Knowing how people feel about meetings, consider Daskal’s question, “Is this meeting necessary?” You might be able to handle it another way.
People – Who is coming? Are they the ones who should be there? Obviously, in a faculty meeting, the principal wants everyone there, but is that why people tune out during parts (or all) of it?
Knowing who to invite is particularly important if you are setting up a library advisory board. In this climate, having one is an important source of strength and builds advocates. You want a broad cross-section but not an unwieldy board. Community members, business owners, parents, teachers, and students are all potential members, but which ones will best serve your purpose?
Process – Daskal advises thinking of the “specifics of how things will get done.” In the faculty meeting you are attending, does the principal make clear what is to follow as a result of the meeting? Are there any tasks to get done? Is there a date when they are do? When appropriate, ask for clarity to help you and the rest of the faculty.
When you are leading, follow Daskal’s advice about keeping track of what is discussed. Send it to all attendees afterwards. Be clear who has taken on what task. Where will they report on it? If you are using Google Docs or some other format, be sure all attendees know how to access and use the technology. Not everyone does.
Progress – All too often, there is no connection from one faculty meeting to the next. If there were any accomplishments or changes, they are not presented. Whatever the original purpose, if there was one has been totally lost. Completion needs celebration.
For your meetings, find ways to celebrate and acknowledge what was achieved. Give credit to participants – and don’t take credit for yourself. Your work will be recognized by others, and those who get credit will be willing to work with you in the future.
Although not a “P,” Daskal says in conclusion, “Lead from Within.” I completely agree. Trust yourself and your knowledge.