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5 ways to lead better meetings


Start on a human note

To build cohesion, it’s important for your team to know one another on a personal level. That’s easy when your company is tiny but harder as you grow. So start meetings with icebreaker questions. Rob LoCascio, CEO of LivePerson (LPSN), a New York City–based messaging technology firm that has grown to more than 300 people, opens gatherings by asking personal questions like, “What was a crossroads in your life?” and “What was one time you felt connected to a team?” Need ideas on what to ask? There are many lists available online.

Outlaw status reports

Use dashboard technology to keep up with the progress of projects in real time so you can devote your meetings to debate and decision-making that require everyone in the room. If there is some critical information that all team members need to review, give them time to read it at the start of the meeting. People can read two to five times as fast as they can speak. And keep the meeting minutes short and sweet. A simple “Who said they are going to do what when?” should suffice.

Batch your meetings

Many companies think they are doing executives a favor by spreading out management meetings throughout the week. Big mistake. It disrupts the flow of the rest of the week. At my own firm, all management meetings are back to back on Mondays. That forces them to start and stop on time, and it lets me stay in decision-making mode. Then I’m free the rest of the week to get out into the marketplace and see clients. Those are the meetings you don’t want to minimize.

Ban meandering monologues

Don’t let leaders torture their teams by stumbling through written notes and ­PowerPoints. At Hubbard Family Swim Schools and Sports Camps, a Phoenix-based company with $6 million in revenue, CEO Bob Hubbard insists that his shift supervisors practice reading a short “Monday memo” out loud on their own before they deliver it to the teaching crew. That way their message really sings. “Otherwise, it is flat and people will tune you out,” says Hubbard.

Offer an escape hatch

Nothing is more draining than attending long, boring meetings. At PulsePoint, a $100 million advertising technology company in New York City, CEO Sloan Gaon gives his employees a “Meeting Attendee’s Bill of Rights” that lets them decline (or abandon) office ­gatherings that don’t meet certain criteria, such as have a written agenda or start within 10 minutes of the scheduled time. “It has forced people at every level to justify their meetings,” Gaon says.

A version of this article appears in the June 15, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine.