The time is running out, and you are still in the middle of the conversation. You are trying to close the discussion, feeling bad for interrupting.
You are striving to create some agreement on the next steps, but there is simply not enough time as people start packing up to go to their next meeting or post in the chat that they need to go. And then they are gone. You are left behind with the feeling that your meeting was a failure.
Does the above scenario resonate? Most leaders tend to run out of time, and they do not wrap up their team meetings properly.
Ending the meeting well is important. Leave time for the closure exercises. For example say: ‘We have gone as far as we can today. Now we need to start wrapping up the meeting.’
We need to achieve three things when we end a meeting:
- alignment on where the group is
- clarity on what happens next, and
- recognition of the value created.
Let’s review how you can achieve these in your meetings.
Alignment on where the group is
Participants often leave a meeting without being clear on what was agreed. Even worse, they may leave a meeting determined not to do what was agreed, or even to sabotage it.
I suggest you write down the decisions that have been made in the meeting. Then ask: ‘Is everyone OK with where we have ended up?’ Writing the decisions down and getting a verbal agreement will help you avoid misunderstandings.
Check for completion by asking something like this: ‘Is there anything else someone needs to say or ask before we end the meeting?’ If you do not, people may have hallway or direct-messaging conversations about it.
If people disagree, but the decision is final, it is useful to get their commitment that they will support the decision once they have left the meeting. Otherwise, they may share their disagreement widely and sabotage the decision.
Clarity on what happens next
Everyone needs to leave a meeting with clarity about the next steps. Agree on who will do what, by when.
You may also want to set a date for the next meeting and develop a preliminary agenda.
Discuss who needs to be informed about the decisions taken in the meeting, and how you will go about doing that. This is especially crucial for important, strategic discussions.
Recognition of the value created
A lot of value is created in meetings, if they are run correctly. But without taking a moment to reflect on it and capture it, it gets lost.
You may want to ask the participants what their key takeaway was, and what they thought of the meeting.
Research shows that companies who have a habit of asking attendees to rate a meeting, raise the quality of their meetings.
Professor Peter Hawkins suggests that, for longer meetings, you check how things are going at the midpoint of the meeting.
You can ask something like: ‘What is the most important value we have created together so far, and what do we need to do differently in the second half of the meeting?’
I like finishing all my meetings with a short closing round. I got the idea from Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter and Medium. You go round and ask everyone to comment on the meeting in thirty seconds or less. There is no back-and-forth.
Ev Williams argues that:
“. . . the closing round is worth doing, because it gives everyone, in a sense, a ‘last word’ ‒the chance to get something off their chest that they might otherwise carry around or whisper to their colleagues later. It creates more mindfulness about what just happened ‒and how things might go better next time.”
Team members also get an opportunity to share how they feel about the direction of the group.
Another lovely way to end the meeting is to ask participants to share one thing they have appreciated in the person sitting to their right at the table or on the screen. This will ensure that your relationships are strengthened, and people leave your meeting with a warm fuzzy feeling and a better sense of belonging.
Which one of these ideas resonated the most with you?