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Effective meeting practices: Using structure to make meetings more inclusive

The leadership challenge

If you are in a leadership role—regardless of whether you are stepping up to leadership for the first time or are an established leader—you will inevitably need to provide feedback to your colleagues, run a team meeting, or facilitate strategy workshops. These are the nuts and bolts of making a team tick. By now, you have also been on the receiving end of these processes and have a pretty good idea of what makes an effective meeting or good feedback. Or do you? 

effective meeting practices

It can be tempting to freestyle based on your previous experience or to search for ideas on running effective team meetings, workshops, and feedback sessions, to name a few activities. Of course, you've come across numerous frameworks and processes, some of which resonate with you and some don't. You probably think, "Let's try a bit of this and some of that approach," never entirely sticking to the frameworks or processes you've encountered. 

Trying out a process in a meeting or feedback session feels clunky, artificial, and unnecessary. You think everyone is talking—some more than others—and engaged—even if a few people sometimes seem silent. So why bother with more structured processes? 

This question regularly arises when working with teams on psychological safety or improving team behaviour. Individual leaders ask a similar question about providing feedback. It is usually some form of "I have a good connection with my colleague. Why should I use a structured process?"

As I've discovered from my mistakes, structure—even when it feels clunky—allows you to focus on the content of a discussion, workshop, or meeting without worrying about excluding people or an alternative perspective. It doesn't take more time, and often, it takes less time than a typical meeting while unlocking greater diversity by providing equal opportunity to think and to speak. It takes some getting used to, but applying and sticking to a structured process in meetings, feedback sessions, and creative workshops is freeing, allowing everyone to express their views and opinions. 

Actionable leadership insights: introducing structure into your meetings.

Using a structure in a meeting, workshop, or conversation for the first time can feel clunky and often needs to be met with some resistance. Here are three ideas for using a structured process effectively with a team or an individual.

  1. Choose a framework that aligns with the situation. It's obvious, but I cannot tell you how often I've tried to use a structure for a conversation that didn't fit. Usually, because I'd read something and thought - "hey, that sounds great." The best way to choose a framework is to ask, "For this interaction (meeting, workshops, 1:1 conversation) to succeed, what needs to happen?" This question alone will often provide the structure; if it doesn't, it gives you the basis to search for a structure to achieve these objectives. See the links below for some ideas on meeting structures. 

  2. Acknowledge that it might feel clunky—at least at first. Acknowledge upfront that what you are about to propose might feel clunky or uncomfortable, which helps reduce opposition and increase willingness to try something new. 

  3. Explain the whole process and stick with it. The value of a structure is in the process, so stick with it. The best way to do this is to make sure you have explained each step in the process before you start. It can be tempting just to get started. But if you have yet to explain where you are going and the benefits to the team, you will fall back into old habits very quickly. Being open with your team and colleagues about what you want to achieve and the process you are following makes it acceptable for others to speak up when they think the conversation deviates from the structure. 

There are already many frameworks and meeting structures out there. They are tools to help make progress. Like most things in life, it takes practice to get comfortable with them. Feel free to keep trying until you and your team are comfortable with the process. 


Let's connect.


If you found this blog engaging, have questions about ordinary leadership or want to chat about leadership in general, it would be great to connect.


I set aside two weekly hours to make new connections and renew old ones. We have half an hour to discuss whatever you want - how we could work together, your projects and ideas, or something else. It's space for connection.

You can book a slot here, and there is more background here.

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