Dan Beverly

As a coach, I have a toolkit of techniques to ensure my sessions are as effective and productive as possible, and with the best chance of achieving the outcomes my coachee and I set for our session.

Here are 6 techniques translated from the coaching toolkit that you can use in your next meeting to amplify your personal effectiveness and increase meeting productivity.

1. Preparation

Ok, to be prepared is neither ground-breaking, nor the preserve of the coach’s toolkit. But it’s Job #1 so it’s on the list.

Coaches never walk into a session without being thoroughly prepared. Meeting attendees should approach their meetings with similar discipline. After all, this is not non-working time.

I know you know how to prepare for a meeting. What I’ll add to the list from the coach’s toolkit is a tip to get focused on this next meeting by giving yourself permission to park whatever else is going on. Try this:

  1. Simply notice what else is in the background for you: any preoccupations, other meetings or projects, actions and to-do lists.
  2. Acknowledge these to yourself and make a note on a post-meeting reminder list somewhere.
  3. Then give yourself permission to park that list, temporarily. You’ll get back to it after the next meeting.

And if you’ve only got 5 minutes between meetings? Don’t skip the prep – go for a lightening-quick version: attendees, agenda, outcome, role.

2. Presence

If you’re going to be in the room, be in the room.

Distractions and errant thoughts will happen. But if you’re not otherwise going to give this meeting and your fellow attendees your undivided attention, why are we having the meeting? Respect your time and that of the others in the meeting: be present.

To do this, use the technique above: notice what’s in the background; acknowledge it; and park it.

And what about the off-topic thoughts that keep popping-up during the meeting? Again, just notice them, make a brief note somewhere and gently bring yourself back to the meeting.

3. Outcome

Coaching is near-entirely solutions-focused and every session starts with a desired outcome. So before and at the outset of your next meeting, ask the question: where do we want to be on this topic by the end of the meeting?

Desired outcomes will no doubt vary, if only slightly, between attendees: so make your own reflections part of your pre-match preparation; and then have the questions asked and answered at the outset of the meeting.

If you’re not chairing the meeting, you’ll of course need to find an appropriate way of having this question asked and answered. Which brings us on to technique #4: permission.

4. Permission

Asking permission is, for me, as important a coaching tool as that of key fundamentals like listening and questioning. And whilst there are a lot of coaching techniques which don’t translate easily to non-coaching situations, permission isn’t one of them. I regularly encourage my coachees to make (more) use of it.

Establishing permission is crucial for any meeting, conversation or dialogue to “work”. We all have a tendency to think everyone’s brain works just like ours, with the same perspectives, priorities and boundaries. But that’s just not true. And overstep the permission line and we’re fighting an uphill battle to get back on track.

Asking for permission is powerful because it shows respect for the other person, their status and their mental space. It creates trust, rapport and attunement. And it gets people focused on what we’re about to say next.

Try it in your next meeting. Establish permission throughout and notice how much less resistance you get, and how much more time is spent on-topic and away from side-tracks.

And a final thought: permission comes in levels. So don’t forget to go back and keep getting that permission as the dialogue moves on.

5. Placement

Ever been in a meeting that didn’t wander off-topic or get lost in its own detail? They do happen, but they’re rare indeed.

Placement is a way of letting everyone in the meeting know where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. It literally places us in the meeting dialogue. And when we use placement in a meeting, the discussion unfolds better than if we don’t.

Placement makes for a powerful start to a meeting: I think of it as “Agenda+”. “So how this is going to go is … and then what we’ll do is … and the outcome we’re looking for today is …” And so on.

And from that great start, ongoing placement is just as important: essentially signposting the discussion as it progresses.

Placement is not a difficult skill to learn. Lots of us already use placement very naturally, particularly before a “difficult” conversation: to set ourselves and to look-after the other person. But any coach will tell you it makes a positive difference to all dialogues, not just the tough conversations. So the trick is to use it in all dialogues, consistently and throughout.

6. Clarification

Clarification is the final key element. When we clarify, we get to the bottom line. We ensure we’ve understood – and been understood by – the meeting. And even when we’ve misunderstood, the clarification that then comes back to us from others gets everyone back on track.

When we talk about clarification in the coaching context, it is far more than just repeating or paraphrasing back what someone has said. It’s about succinctly capturing the essence of the discussion, tying together the connections and readying us for the next piece.

This type of advanced clarification takes practice; but when mastered, will have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness and productivity of your meetings. In this way, clarification is also a powerful way of moving things forward.

Like placement, clarification should be an ongoing feature of the meeting. But that said, no one goes to a meeting to get to its middle. What we say and do last is what most stays with the other attendees. So finish a meeting powerfully with strong clarification.

More productive meetings, more often

Meetings are a reality of work. Practice and employ these 6 techniques in your upcoming meetings to make them as productive as possible.

Dan Beverly

Dan Beverly is a leadership and performance coach helping high-calibre, high-performing professional women embrace the pivotal career moments.

To work with Dan, go online to book your complimentary “Session Zero” – and start capitalising on your pivotal career moment, today.