On Effective Meetings or Classes

“Respect my time by showing up on time, and I’ll respect your time by getting done on time.” – Dr. Neal Schnoor, Dean of Leadership & Education at WSC

One of the greatest lessons I have ever learned about leadership came from Dr. Neal Schnoor, maybe one of the most underrated thought leaders in the area of leadership and education. The events Dr. Schnoor ran always started on time, and I would guess that he averaged 99% attendance at the start of every event. It was so refreshing to be involved in this. Dr. Schnoor has an amazing ability to run incredibly effective and efficient meetings. Some of these meetings and classes involved as many as two hundred people! I’ve witnessed this man organize 100 people via a poor PA system and teach leadership principals more effectively than most managers do with 5 people in a comfy board room.

Here are some of the greatest lessons I learned from observing Dr. Schnoor about conducting great meetings or training events:

RESPECT EVERYONES TIME: There is only one thing you can take from people that can truly never be replaced: time. Dr. Schnoor continually communicated to us how important our time was to him. He rarely ran late, and if did he would always ask permission to do so and give permission to leave if needed. If he ran a previous leadership team meeting ten minutes late, he would always end ten minutes early the next time. He valued our time and never wanted to waste it. We would all do well to take a lesson here and learn to value time. Every minute you keep people with you is a minute they will never get back. Be sure that the time they are spending with you is worth being there – this is your leadership responsibility.

EFFECTIVE PREP MATTERS: Being organized and prepared cuts massive amounts of time from meetings and lessons. Always spend time preparing – prepare for no less than the event length. A one hour meeting should never get less than one hour of prep time. A full day meeting should get no less than a full day of prep time. People matter too much for us to waste their time by being unprepared.

COMMUNICATE THE AGENDA: Always start by communicating what you would like to cover in the time alloted. This gives people a roadmap for where you are going to take them and helps them mentally prepare and get focused. Spending a few minutes, relative to the length of the meeting, reviewing what will be covered and your expectations of those who have joined you is a critical piece to effectiveness. Also, return to this agenda review briefly after every break in the action. Coming back from a lunch break? Start with a review of where you have been, where you are, and where you are going.

IT STARTS WITH YOU: It is amazing to me how often “leaders” want to change other people first. You’re the leader – lead by example. Show up early, start on time, end on time, respect people’s time, come prepared, do your part, contribute. If things don’t go well, apologize for your lack of prep and communicate what you will do to change for a better outcome next time. It always baffle’s me when I hear leaders talk about how poor their meetings or organized events go and then immediately ask, “how can I change this culture or behavior”. If you consistently run meetings late, don’t expect people to consistently show up on time. If you consistently show up under-prepared, putting things together at the last moment, don’t expect others to do any different. If you are the leader, be the leader. Asking people to be on time may encourage the right behavior, but respecting their time with your actions will drive the right behavior.

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