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Becoming a new manager, project team leader, or influential consultant brings new challenges to successful career development. New managers and consultants need to find and lead from their center, blending feelings + ideas + actions into outcomes that increase personal and team effectiveness. Many new leaders feel alone, incompetent, and misunderstood. Straightforward tasks, accessible mentors, and other supportive colleagues often seem beyond the new managers’ or consultants’ reach.

Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth in management occupation to grow five percent from 2019 to 2029. Over a half-million new managerial jobs will be created in that time, and the ranks of team leaders will swell. New managers and organizational influences need to be skilled at preparing for business meetings. Developing skills in preparing for your first critical meetings demonstrates your approaches and skills in decision-making. A new manager will continue to advance her career when others acknowledge her as an effective meeting manager.

A team meeting (without travel or supply costs) of 12 people with an average salary of US$85,000 costs US$510. Over a year, the costs of that weekly meeting will exceed US$26,000. Even slight improvements in meeting effectiveness will yield savings, not to mention eliminating the mindlessness of ineffective meetings. New managers and consultants will distinguish themselves from others through their active leadership of meetings.

Clarifying Goals and Outcomes

Because meetings consume psychic, social, and material resources, the new leader’s task is to clarify many competing agendas and interests. Employee frustration increases quickly with a new boss who appears incompetent in the essential functions of communication. Meeting formality will vary from one company or organization to another and from one group to another, but meetings searching for a purpose routinely fail. As a new manager or consultant, you need to provide a reason for others to attend your meeting. The best way to do this is by gaining clarity on what you need and want to achieve. Clear objectives assist others in aligning and moving to goals that matter.

Deciding Who to Invite and How to Involve Them

You will want to consider all stakeholders to your meeting and your career and assess their importance to your early effectiveness. You might not want to consult your area Vice President on each meeting you lead, but you may wish to frequently seek your direct manager’s guidance. As a meeting leader, please decide how you want to involve others in your meetings. Do you want participants to design a plan with you? Who will be accountable for decision-making: everyone or you? Failing to consider these critical issues places your developing career at risk and neglects to develop the relationships essential for productive workplaces.

Developing and Distributing Agendas

Impromptu meetings are sufficient, and we can do some of our best work when we drop-in with a colleague via WebEx, Zoom, or by phone. But for the most part, organizational rhythms flow to a cadence of decision-making meetings of increasing importance. As a new meeting leader, the realization that you are often at the beginning of important and transformational processes is critical. While not every meeting will result in feelings of accomplishment and pride, those that do will carry you forward to the next challenging assignment. Agendas are the playbook or guide to what we intend to accomplish. Your well-crafted agenda demonstrates the respect you show to others and reflects your professionalism. Plan your time carefully, regardless of how long the meeting is designed to last. An ineffective 20-minute stand-up team meeting held three times a week wastes as much or more time as an unplanned weekly one-hour team meeting. Because you value others, distribute an agenda 72 hours in advance of your meeting.

Managing Participation

Start your meetings on time to demonstrate respect. If the team is meeting virtually, test your camera and microphone before starting. Your pre-meeting planning will benefit you now, as you focus on managing the meeting itself. You’ll want allies to help you with timekeeping and note-keeping; it’s a beautiful way of getting others to invest in the team’s shared goals. Be level-head and invite others to participate. Don’t seek to defend. Maintain your leadership by seeking collaboration and maximizing everyone’s contribution, regardless of how often they speak during the meeting. Design participation strategies in advance of your meeting, and drive progress by sharpening that planning following each meeting.

Encouraging Feedback and Following Up

You grow a career by involving others, and prospering new leaders invite feedback. When you ask others for feedback, you learn about your colleagues’ wants and needs. Knowing colleagues’ wants and needs assists you in creating environments where people can do their best work. When you invite feedback on your style, you can begin fine-tuning approaches to working successfully with others. A combination of introspection and feedback produces possibilities for change and improvement. As the new leader, follow-up with others to ensure progress. Demonstrate your integrity by matching your actions to your words. If you want participation and involvement to produce the best ideas, don’t leave those ideals to chance.

Planning and Sharing Tasks for the Next Meeting

Meetings establish a climate and set a standard for involvement. When you lead by example and involve others, people follow. If there is one thing we know for sure about leaders, it is that they have followers. Meetings create platforms for developing and strengthening relationships. Led effectively, people contribute selflessly. Aspiring leaders and consultants demonstrate effectiveness by choosing service to the organization over self-interests. Meaningful connections increase managerial effectiveness, employee engagement, and profit organizational stakeholders. You contribute to forward motion when you share tasks and plan for futures that disrupt the status quo and people the organization forward.

When managers and consultants are growing careers that shape organizational outcomes, knowing how to prepare for effective meetings is essential to success. Managers who make the transition to leadership know how to ask for help. In the many questions they have about improving meeting effectiveness and decision-making, they don’t settle for pat answers. Aspiring leaders seek innovation, even in processes as routine as organizational meetings. They accept the honor of others’ time, developing the best in everyone. New leaders meet these challenges by involving others and by maintaining committed to their personal and professional growth, and those of their team members. Growing managerial and consultant influence requires a record of achievement in planning successful meetings.