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how to lead a meeting

Meetings – At the Heart of Teamwork

Functions of a Meeting

Meetings are an essential function of any Lodge or Lodge committee. Meetings perform several key functions better than any other communication device.

Meetings define the Lodge or Lodge Committee (Who’s there and committed)

Meetings fill human need. We are a social species.

Meetings give people a sense of belonging.

Meetings are where  the Lodge or Committee can collaborate and use shared knowledge to make decisions or to revise, update, and add to current plans.

Meetings are an important reflection of how the Lodge members work together.

The increased rate of change in today’s world makes well-planned meetings even more necessary.

Leadership Styles and Meetings

Meeting management styles can be divided into four categories:

“Tell’em and sell’em

The Master or meeting leader comes to meeting with his or her mind made up to inform the team. The dialogue would include an explanation of an existing issue or program, a description of the plan, delegation of responsibilities, questions and answers. This meeting would generally end with the Master or meeting leader thanking the members for their support and passing on words of encouragement.

Status Report

The Master or meeting leader invites committee chairmen or project leaders to give a status report of their current work. Little exchange is had between members attending the meeting. The meeting is meant to bring everyone up to date. In today’s world, this type of meeting can be viewed as a waste of time for many leaders. Status reports can be read. Unless there are many questions by Lodge or committee members about what is going on, the use of correspondence (paper or electronic) might be a better approach.


The Master or meeting leader has no set agenda or stated objectives. “What would you like to discuss?” Members throw out topics of discussion. The meeting leader allows everyone to comment. Meeting leaders who use this style want input from the team. These meetings can be frustrating, especially to people who have other things to do. Without a clear agenda or very strong leadership, this type of meeting can be viewed as a waste of time.

Focused, Participative

The Master or meeting leader establishes clear meeting objectives at the outset of the meeting.  If desired, the Master or meeting leaders can ask for agreement by those present to the outlined objectives. Members are encouraged to participate throughout the meeting. The leader asks questions and finds ways to connect, improve, and enhance ideas. The meeting leader keeps the members on track. The goal of the meeting leader is to bring out the knowledge and experience of the members.

What Goes Wrong at Meetings

A survey of 950 professions, the following were the top things that go wrong at meetings:

1.      Getting off subject.

2.      No goals or agenda

3.      Too lengthy

4.      Poor or inadequate preparation

5.      Inconclusive results

6.      Lack of control

7.      Starting late

8.      No effective decision-making

9.      Interruptions within and without the room

10.  Rambling and redundant discussion

11.  No published results of the meeting

12.  No pre-meeting orientation or information

The Results of Poor Meeting Leadership

1.      A lack of full participation and attendance.

2.      A bad attitude about team meetings.

3.      Progress slows or stops

4.      Conflicts between team members

5.      Team members will be confused about objectives.

Focusing Meetings with Objectives

Before calling a meeting, the important thing to ask is, “What will this meeting achieve?”

(This is true of all committee meetings, but especially so of both stated and special communications of the Lodge.) This question can be answered before the meeting by the Master or meeting leader (important if you want the members to be fully prepared for a particular subject), or it can be the first issued addressed at the meeting. “What needs to be accomplished at this meeting? This takes more time and the leader must be able to build consensus, but it may be necessary depending on your situation.

Objectives are normally actions that will be completed by the Lodge or committee. They include words like plan, develop, determine, generate, prioritize, solve, resolve.  Avoid action words that are too vague. The most used example is discuss. “We are meeting to discuss…” Simply discussing something at a meeting does not produce much of a result. Frustrated participating members are a likely result.

Writing Meeting Objectives

Writing out the meeting objectives helps members understand its purpose. When the objectives are posted where they can be seen during the meeting, they keep the group focused. Thus, providing a printed meeting agenda to all members is important.

Focusing a Meeting

The following are techniques to focus a meeting:

1.      Use a pre-meeting notice to communicate the meeting objectives and let people know what to expect.

2.      Read and post the objectives at the meeting for all to see and refer to.

3.      Use the meeting agenda to let people know how the objectives will be met

4.      Start the meeting (if not a state or special communication of the Lodge) with some kind of activity that includes everyone.

5.      Set general rules or norms for the meeting. This includes the roles people will play, like the Master or Committee Chairman (the meeting Facilitator). The leader (or meeting facilitator) is someone who will keep the group on schedule and on the agenda. The Secretary (or “recorder”)  will record the results of the meeting and see that they are distributed to lodge or committee members after the meeting.

Encouraging Participation

If it is the goal to promote collaboration and sharing of knowledge and experience, the following are the critical elements of encouraging participation by members.

Verbal Techniques

Ask open-ended questions:

            What is your reaction to that?

            How can we improve the way…

            Describe the process…

Explain the difference between the two ideas

Acknowledge and positively respond to contributions

            Thank you.

            That’s a new idea

            Let’s get that down…

Ask for more specific examples

            Can you be more specific?

            Can you go further into that?

            What do you mean by….?

            Can you give another example?

Ask for and encourage different points of view

            What do the rest of you think of that?

            I’d like to throw the question out to the whole group.

            That relates to something Brother  Joe said earlier. Brother  Joe…

Ask non-vocal member for their input

            Brother John, any reaction to this?

            Brother Terry, we haven’t heard from you yet; what do you think?

Non-Verbal Techniques

Your non-verbal behavior can let team members know that you are attentive, interested, and sincere. Here are some tips for good non-verbal techniques:

    1. Show attentiveness: Pay attention to the person talking. Establish good eye contact with the speaker. Relax your posture and turn toward the speaker. A few nods of the head to show your understanding will encourage the speaker to continue.
    2. Use your voice and facial expressions. Speak clearly and loud enough for everyone to hear. A serious deadpan face may bring down the energy level of the room.  Smile and keep a positive expression on your face.
    3. Silence. Silence is a critical tool for meeting management. Learn to pause, wait, and say nothing. It is important to pause after asking a question. Try not to get anxious to restate your question if you don’t get an immediate response.

Getting Consensus and Closure

What IS consensus and what is NOT?

Consensus is the point of maximum of agreement so action can follow. Consensus is not reached by voting. A good test to see if you have reached, consensus is to ask the question. “Can you support this decision?”

Getting to Closure

At each junction, when the members present have reached consensus on one of the objectives, the Master or team leader should state what the group has agreed to do and see that this is documented. When the members are close to completing the last objective, or time is running out, the meeting leader should state. “This is our last objective,” or “We have fifteen minutes to conclude this discussion.” In the remaining minutes of the meeting, the meeting leader should review what has been accomplished in the meeting and what actions should follow.

Follow-Up to the Meeting

After the meeting is over, every Lodge or Committee member should receive a written (paper or electronic) of the objective and outcomes of the meeting. Included in the statement should be any action items that came from the meeting and any areas of responsibility that will affect future actions.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014