THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Cheerleading 101: How to run a meeting

A meeting is a great place to let everyone know how great you are– because it's a performance. You run the show and everyone watches you.

There are lots of rules for running a good meeting: always have an agenda, start on time, and make sure no one is hungry. But this rule is more important than all others: when you run a meeting you're a salesperson. Every time.

People who are not used to running meetings all day can mistake a meeting for something that is not a sales call. Don't do that. You will be poorly prepared, and you will look bad.

The best meeting is you telling everyone how great the team is, how meaningful the project is, how happy you are to be able to work with them. A meeting is a cheerleading session to let everyone know they're all on the same page, to remind everyone how great that page is, and remind them that you're running this smooth-sailing show.

If everyone is not on the same page, it's your fault because you're the leader. Deal with naysayers one-on-one, before the meeting, not in the meeting. Why gather everyone in a room to convince only a few of them to change their minds and get on your page? Do it beforehand. Each person has different issues to address, and you can't do that in a group without offending the offender and boring everyone else.

Let's think about a project that's not on track. For one thing, it's probably because some people are behind, but not all. To get specific people back on track, meet each person before the big meeting, and convince them to change how they're working. You need to sell them on the idea of doing a good job on your project. You need to convince them to committing to a tighter schedule or better work. Then you hold the meeting to let everyone know that the project is back on track because you have commitment from people who need to change how they're working.

Often teams with messed-up projects are people who don't report directly to the team leader. So the leader has no authority to make the messed-up project a high priority. The way to solve this problem is not to call a meeting. You solve the problem with team members individually. Find out what their goals are and figure out how to sell them on the idea that this project will help them get what they want. You need to have a one-on-one sales call with each person to convince them to perform well for you even though you don't manage them. The big meeting is a celebration of your success at these one-on-one meetings. It's to show everyone that they're all committed to the team.

Let's say it's a brainstorming session. That's also a sales moment, because you need everyone to think of ideas. You need to convince them that it's worth their time and effort. They need to feel that you will listen, that their ideas matter, that people in the meeting will be respectful. Just because you write brainstorm on the agenda doesn't mean people will do it.

Which brings me to the reason you have an agenda. You're doing a sales presentation. You need to control the parameters of the meeting so that you get everyone excited to get your stuff done on time and done well. You don't want anything unexpected to come up and ruin your carefully planned cheerleading session. The agenda is to keep out everything not aligned with your sales strategy.