In business, as in sports, there is nothing more frustrating than a poorly executed meeting. Whether you are stuck in an office conference room listening to a droning, directionless boss or huddled up on the field with a queasy, indecisive quarterback, your confidence, productivity and competitive edge are bound to plummet.
That’s why every great leader—be they coach, captain, division head or CEO—knows that in order to spur high performance, meetings (and huddles) must be focused, disciplined and inspirational.
This principle of Great Teams was most poignantly reinforced for me four years ago at Madison Square Garden, as I watched Villanova face off against Louisville in the 2013 Big East Tournament quarterfinals. Every time Villanova called a time out the players moved their chairs out towards the middle of the floor so that—as the starters sat down—the rest of the team could encircle them, arm-in-arm, forming a protective cocoon. Everyone was present. Everyone was dialed in.
A couple of months later I sat down with Villanova head coach Jay Wright and asked him why he ran his timeouts that way. His response: “You know, I really believe that everything in life begins in the huddle. The best teams,” he continued, “run the best huddles. It’s critical to having a tight, cohesive unit. It doesn’t matter who’s playing, and who’s not. You are all in it together.”
That philosophy has paid fantastic dividends for Wright, whose team lost to Louisville 74-55 that night in New York, but won the Big East tournament in 2015 and were crowned National Champions last year.
Wright provides us with a powerful leadership lesson. All of us run huddles. Wherever we are (in our business lives and at home) we are so often in meetings. How can we make these moments count?
Here are four ways to ensure that your meeting matters (click here to see the full list of 10):
1. Start And Finish Meetings On Time
It’s virtually impossible to run an effective, efficient meeting when people saunter in late, interrupting the focus and flow you are working hard to create. And according to two recent University of North Carolina at Charlotte studies, 37% of meetings start late, on average by 15 minutes. Make sure you always start on time. If you have to chastise team members who are chronically late, so be it. Under pressure they are likely to shape up rather quickly.
2. Get Rid Of Distractions From The Onset
When Coach Wright had his players lock arms and encircle the starters he was making sure each and every player was locked in. You want the same kind of buy-in from your colleagues. I’m not saying everyone in the conference should lock arms (imagine your H.R. director’s shudder). But you can tell everyone who walks into your meeting that you want them either fully in or fully out. If they’re going to fiddle with their phones, check emails or text, they should get out of the meeting.
3. Don’t Fritter Away Time By Engaging In Off-Topic Talk
If you treat your meeting like a team huddle you’ll be much more conscious of the ticking clock. No one’s going to toss a delay-of-game flag at you, but think about the resources you waste when you lose focus. Need a sobering wake-up call? Tally the collective hourly pay of everyone in the conference room. That’s the opportunity cost of inefficient meeting management. Don’t blow the first five minutes of your meeting on chit chat and don’t digress into some he-said/she-said conversation. Stick to your pre-determined agenda points.
4. Make Each Meeting Count: Keep Team Members Focused On Emotion-Driven Content And Clear Goals.
Make sure everyone understands what the objective of the meeting is and tie it in with a higher purpose: your company’s mission. The agenda should spell out how this particular meeting’s goals fit into the company’s overall vision. Everyone should be clear on how the objectives of the meeting will help the company, benefit the team and move things forward. If everyone understands the bigger picture they will be much more easily engaged throughout the meeting.
This article was written by Don Yaeger from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.