5 Tips for More Collaborative Meetings

Woman leads a meeting, engaging and incorporating the ideas of her colleagues

There are a lot of great ways to make meetings shorter, more productive or more efficient. But how do you run a meeting when you need everyone on the team to own the outcomes of the meeting? Here are five tips for making your meetings more collaborative.

  1. Really share the agenda. Obviously, it helps to share the agenda in advance of the meeting. But how can you make it the team's agenda and not just your agenda? Small steps can give the team shared ownership of the meeting agenda. Leave blank space on the agenda for new items. Begin the meeting by reviewing the agenda and ask what you may have missed. End the meeting with an opportunity to identify items for the next agenda. The first step to a team owning the decision is owning the decision-making process. 
  2. Focus on listening. Running a collaborative meeting means a lot of listening. Instead of pushing information, the leader needs to focus on drawing thoughts out of the participants. This doesn't mean you can't express your opinion, but if you start with your opinion, others may be hesitant to disagree. Signs that you are listening include asking clarifying questions, summarizing and taking notes. 
  3. Take notes publicly. For a decision to be collaborative, participants need to see the solution taking shape. Taking notes that can be seen by everyone builds trust in the process, and provides an opportunity for others to clarify or correct misunderstandings. Whether you use a white board, flip chart, projector, or some other method, shared notes send the message that everyone's contribution matters. 
  4. Call on the quiet. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking up, especially when strong opinions have already been expressed. A collaborative leader doesn't assume that silence means agreement. If only some team members are speaking, point that out and invite those who haven't talked yet to share what they are thinking. 
  5. Look beyond "yea/nay." If your goal is to have all the team members on board with the decision, avoid votes that force members into a yes or no choice. People may be open to an idea, but still need to express their reservations. Allowing them to express their support on a spectrum will help you both gauge support and identify specific concerns to be addressed. This gives you the chance to improve the plan by incorporating the insights of the entire group. 

There is no question — it takes more time and effort to have collaborative meetings. But when the issues are important and you need a decision that the whole team owns, it can be worth the extra effort. 

Kelly Phipps, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of Management

Kelly Phipps, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of Management