Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


5 Strategies on How to Lead While in Meetings all Day

Volume: July 2019

Edgar is at wits end. He leads an important team for his organization. Well, he is supposed to be leading, unfortunately, he is in meetings all day. When I say all day, I only mean from 8am – 5pm, including working lunches. The rest of his day is wide open. At the end of some days, Edgar just shakes his head thinking about the myriad of emails, tasks, and paperwork that are waiting for him. He has a good history with his company and enjoys many aspects of his job, but the grind of long meetings and long days is taking its toll on Edgar’s morale. He feels trapped and inadequate - frustrated by his circumstances.
What a predicament for Edgar! In fact, many of you reading this may be empathizing with Edgar’s situation. If so, here are five strategies for you to consider.  

  1. Delegate effectively. Let’s face it, you are not going to be able to complete many tasks yourself. Not if you are going to experience anything that resembles work-life balance. Thus, you are going to have to be an excellent delegator. This will call for you to be very specific with your team members regarding the tasks and duties that you delegate to them. Your directions, desired time frames, required updates, and resources available to the delgatee need to be crystal clear. In addition, you will need to empower your people because you will not be available to provide guidance to them while they complete delegated tasks.
  2. Get your priorities in order. You have limited time to spend with your team. Yet, you need everyone on your team to be rowing in the correct direction. This will call for you to get your prioritization act in order. Here at Leadership Simplified, one of the prioritization systems we recommend is called priority buckets. Regardless of the system you use, organize your team’s top priorities and communicate the daylights out of them. The more you have your priority management act in order, the better your team will be able to perform without your frequent guidance.
  3. Set ground rules for meetings. If you are booked back-to-back with meetings, it is difficult to arrive on time to each meeting. Consistently arriving late to meetings will eventually create integrity issues with colleagues. As such, communicate with your colleagues and meeting organizers regarding your situation. If they are in similar circumstances, implore them to begin meetings five minutes past the traditional start time. For example, rather than begin a meeting 10am, agree to start at 10:05am. In addition, consider requesting a five minute cell phone / text message segment during selected meetings during the day. For those of you who are truly passionate about leading effective meetings, you may be interested in the Death by Meetings chapter of Leadership Simplified.
  4. Fiendishly manage your email. We are taught that if you want to receive more, give more. And this is doubly true with regard to email: The more you send, the more you shall receive. Recently, a wise leader said to me, “I find that if I send less email, I receive less of the darn stuff.” This is a concept you may want to ponder. Also, if your team members use the A, B, C system in the subject line of their emails, it can help you triage your email when you are attempting to simultaneously digest the 100 or so unread emails in your inbox. For more tools and tips regarding email (including how to effectively use the Reply All function), you may find the following of interest: Leading the Changing Face of Email Strategy, Email Whisperer, and 11 Essential Email Habits.
  5. Create workplace expectations. If your day is filled with meetings and strategic commitments, establishing working agreements with your team members, important peers, and superiors is essential. Clearly communicate how all-day, everyday meetings will impact your duties and responsibilities. Likewise, clearly learn others’ viewpoints of your plight. Some may be empathetic, while others will simply expect you to devote your life to your job. Regardless, this is good information to have.  

Bottom Line: Being expected to simultaneously participate in meetings all day and effectively lead people seems like a recipe for disaster. It does not, however, have to be such a slippery slope. Efficiently delegate, get your priority house in order, negotiate meeting rules of engagement, manage your email wisely, and drive clarity of expectations. You have more control over your situation than you imagine. Think strategically; communicate; and let your team members support you. The results you deliver will be broad contributions to your organization, a better cross-functional understanding of responsibilities, and team members who grow and develop despite your limited access to them.
Do you want to use this newsletter in print or online? 
Please do so, as long as you do not alter the content or embedded links. Also, please include the following information: Doug Van Dyke is a Tampa Bay based leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. To learn more about leadership development programs, coaching and consulting services, visit www.leadershipsimplified.com.

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