Five Simple Practices for Better High-Stakes Meetings

Like it or not, meetings are prime time for leaders. Meetings matter. Meetings are where next steps are discerned and big decisions happen.

The move to virtual meetings and dispersed teams has added new challenges at a time when the issues being discussed and decided involve high stakes. To help you have better meetings when the stakes are high, here are five simple practices that can help position your team to hear God, hear each other and make better decisions.

1. Park – The “parking lot” is for issues and ideas that come up that are not the main topic. Instead of taking time on these issues or dismissing the ideas, you can park them for another time. Here’s an example how you do it, “Bill, you are raising an important topic. It would be good to address the topic but doing so now will pull us away from what we need to focus on today. So I will note it and put in our parking lot of future topics to address. Thanks Bill.” This approach recognizes the person and their contribution plus keeps you focused.

2. Pause – People get tired; brains start to lag; and productivity steadily declines after 45-60 minutes of meeting time. This is especially true with virtual meetings. Instead of pushing through, take a pause. Take a 5-to-15-minute break to allow people to stand, stretch, walk around, get a snack and visit the restroom. Set a clear time for returning. People will return refreshed, ready to engage and often with renewed clarity.

3. Pray – Prayer doesn’t need to be exclusively at the start or end of a meeting. Prayer can weave throughout. If a special need is shared or note of celebration is identified, take a few minutes to pray before moving forward in the agenda. If you are making a big decision, take time to pray before, during and after. If you get stuck, step away from the discussion and pray together. This can include prayerful silence to listen to the Lord.

4. Probe – It’s often difficult in a face-to-face meeting to know if there is real agreement around an issue. So take extra care and time to probe for clarity, conflict and agreement. It’s better to surface issues in real-time and address them, than to have them pop up later. When you sense someone is holding back, making exceptions or hedging, take time to probe further. You can even say something like, “Bill, I want to be sure we are on the same page. So let me probe a bit more. How comfortable are you with this direction?”

5. Page – Your team needs to leave important meetings on the same page. If you leave on slightly different pages, then your focus and communication to others will be cloudy and confused. Take time during and at the end of each meeting to summarize key decisions made (including point person, next steps and timeline) and key talking points.

You can start meetings by sharing these “5 P’s” and encouraging your team to take initiative in applying them. For instance, you can empower each person on your team to share if they need to pause, or if they sense one would help the group. You can empower them to interject and call the group to pray as they sense the need. You can encourage them to probe, if they sense not everyone is on the same page. Having your own team apply these practices can make it easier for you to facilitate meetings.

For more tips on maximizing meetings, we created a free short video and downloadable tool last year called: “8 Tips to Maximize Meetings.”

Cheering you on as you Lead Different,

Dr. Steve Brown
President, Arrow Leadership

P.S. Has COVID-19 made your strategic plan obsolete? Are you struggling to find a path forward? We can help! From one-to-one coaching to guiding you through a strategic planning process, the team at Arrow Leadership is here for you. To explore further, contact to set-up a complimentary consultation.