Management Matters: You Can Have Better Meetings When You Know Your Role

Most of us would agree that we have too many meetings to attend and most of them are not run all that well. The skills needed to accomplish meeting objectives in a minimum amount of time with a maximum amount of interaction and creativity are pretty diverse. If you called the meeting, you must develop ways of promoting effective interactions among the participants, while getting the results you want at the same time.

Your process capabilities may not be up to the task. It’s important to identify what can cause your derailment, and build a base from which to you can support your team members. For greater freedom to understand, access, enjoy and use the creativity of team members, be clear about what role you need to take on and when.

Lead – To direct by influence; to be the head of

  • The leader is the person who manages the team: calling and facilitating meetings, handling or assigning administrative details, orchestrating all team activities, and overseeing preparations for reports and presentations.
  • The team leader should be interested in solving the problems that prompted this project and the leader should also be reasonably good at working with individuals and groups. It is the leader's responsibility to create and maintain channels that enable team members to do their job.
  • Effective leaders share their responsibilities with other team members and trust their team to arrive at the best answer. They give team members a chance to succeed or make mistakes on their own and understand that the lessons learned from the experience are stronger and last longer than those from having a leader tell them what to do.

Advise: To give advice; to counsel; to inform

  • Like a team leader, an advisor will have more expertise than the team members. The job is to help team members discover for themselves what the answers are, not dictate answers to the team.
  • Advisors aren’t leaders or members - they are "outsiders" to the group in many ways, maintaining a neutral position. A critical aspects of this role that comes with this neutrality is to observe the team's progress, evaluate how the team functions, and use the observations to help the team improve its process.
  • An advisor's second focus is instructing team members in the technical tools and helping to guide the team's effort when technical expertise is needed.
  • Advisors almost never run a meeting, handle administrative or logistical details, or carry out between-meeting assignments. Advisors work primarily work before and after team meetings with the team leader, talking about the team's progress and working to find ways to improve the processes by which the team works.
  • Advisors are well versed in the concepts of the issue at hand, including approaches that help a team have effective, productive meetings. They do not participate directly in the team's activities.

Facilitate: To make easy or easier

  • Facilitation puts the emphasis on the team member’s involvement in the process, and learning (and improving) effective team behaviors. A facilitator is more able to listen to participants and accept troublesome, innovative, and creative ideas which emerge in participants.
  • Facilitation allows team members to make responsible choices about the direction of learning, which means living with mistaken choices as well as correct ones, which are all part of the learning process.

Once you have clearly identified for yourself AND to the team members your role, you can focus on the results for that role. You can then function, not as a showman who goes to great limits to attract and maintain attention, not as policeman who hands out tickets to transgressing participants - but as a leader, advisor or facilitator who leads team members to the pleasant acquisition of new ideas or skills while being both engaged and efficient in attaining meeting outcomes. .

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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