How To Save Time And Lead Effectively

It seems like every leader I talk to feels like they are buried alive.  People are always telling me they can barely keep their heads above the surface with all of the meetings, emails, reports, decisions, projects and problems they encounter.

No one is immune to this problem.  Just last week I found myself exhausted after a day filled with meetings, traveling from point A to point B, responding to emails, and putting out fires.  The fires didn’t only exist at work.  To make matters worst, early in the afternoon my daughter got sick and had to be picked up at day care on short notice. Does this sound familiar?

The truth is leadership is tough work and leaders are always juggling competing priorities and demands.  Gone are the days where work is predictable and everything goes according to plan.  Like it or not, chaos is the new norm and change is constant.  So how can we lead others effectively in the modern workplace?  How can leaders connect with others in a meaningful way and leave time in their schedules for all of the urgent demands?

One way is to have 20-minute check-in meetings with those you lead.  Check-in meetings that occur within 20-minutes provide the time necessary to keep attention focused and outcomes front and center.  In 20 minutes you can connect with others in a purposeful and meaningful way that enhances your relationship, inspires action, improves communication, and evokes high performance.

So what does a 20-minute check in meeting look like?  And how should this meeting be structured?  Here are 5 steps you can follow to make this a success.

  1. Prepare in advance - Block 1/2 an hour on your calendar and devote the time to the person you are meeting with.  Make this a recurring meeting and be sure to invite the person with your calendar software.  This is not an ad-hoc meeting that you squeeze in.  It is a purposeful meeting with a structured agenda and expected outcome.  The meeting itself will last 20-minutes but you need 5-minutes up front to prepare/get focused and 5-minutes after to reflect/capture notes.
  2. Ask a few good questions - How can we make the best use of our time?  What would you like the outcome of this meeting to be?  What successes did you have last week?  What would you like to accomplish next week?  The purpose of the meeting is simply to connect and create a space to build and maintain a relationship with those you lead.  The agenda of the meeting is linked to the questions you have so think about 2-3 and ask them consistently. Questions are the best way to create a connection with the people you lead and set the stage for a powerful meeting. Especially when you ask the questions and then follow the next step.
  3. Listen intently - we were given two ears and only one mouth so we should listen more than we talk.  This applies to life in general and it applies to the 20-minute check in meeting.  It is also important to note that you should approach this meeting with a sense of curiosity.  Ask yourself prior to the meeting if you are really curious about the other person and her situation.  If you are not curious try to be!  Curiosity will help you listen without judgement and that is important when building and maintaining relationships.
  4. Make clear requests - if you would like something from the person you are meeting with make a clear request.  A request coordinates action and, if done well, sets everyone up for success.  We are always making requests but we are often not aware of the quality of our requests.  A clear request is specific, time bound, and stated quickly.  For example:  “Bob, will you read this article today and let me know if you found it useful?” is a clear request.  Try to avoid rambling on and on about what you want.  Think about your request as a tweet - keep it to 140 characters or less.
  5. Reflect on the meeting - take 5 minutes after the meeting to reflect, capture notes, and evaluate yourself.  Were you fully engaged and present or was your mind wandering?  Did you feel curious?  Did you listen and hold the space for the other person to think and express him or herself?  Far too often we run from meeting to meeting without processing the experiences we have.  All it takes is 5-minutes to notice the good things that surface in the 20-minute check in meeting.  Take the time to evaluate your performance in the meeting and use that information to improve next time.

So there you have it.  5 steps you can follow to lead more effectively in just 30-minutes a day.

Question:  What are you putting on your 20-minute check in meeting agenda? Leave a comment below.