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« 11. Chairing meetings: EQ tips on agendas »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

Emotional intelligence for leaders covers many different skill sets and can be applied in varying situations. Chairing meetings is an important one.

This article will examine how emotional intelligence can be applied to chairing meetings and how to manage the agenda effectively to the organisation's benefit.

Emotional intelligence tip: Don't spread bad chairing around

How many meetings do you attend or chair that are not effective? Many meetings are boring, achieve little or drag on for too long. Although there are many meetings held each day, few people who chair meetings get any training on how to chair them effectively. 

If you want an emotionally intelligent organisation don't waste your people's time in ineffective meetings, it will lower their motivation, build resentments and create apathy and boredom.

The Chair can make an enormous difference to whether people are bored or inspired. Organisations sometimes "rotate the Chair" as if this will overcome poor chairing. It doesn't, it just spreads bad chairing around. This shows a lack of emotional intelligence. Your people deserve better.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader and chair meetings more effectively? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

How to chair meetings so people are engaged

For the past three years I have been spending time helping groups and organisations run more effective meetings. I have been privileged to sit in on live meetings with managers and executives, to coach during the meetings, and then to run feedback sessions with everyone afterwards. It is very productive as people make real changes in behaviour on the spot. It is emotional intelligence in action.

Based on my experiences here are five tips on how to chair meetings so people are engaged.

Emotional intelligence tip 1: Clarify the specific purpose

As the Chair you will want to inspire the people who participate in your meetings. Inspire them to focus, participate, and create solutions to problems. Yes, part of your role as Chair is to inspire others, this is why your emotional intelligence matters.

The first step in doing this is to make sure they know exactly why they are there.

Many meetings only have vague reasons for the people meeting together. When the purpose is simply to "up-date people" or "discuss issues of relevance" it can be too ambiguous and lead to long meetings, people getting bored and the revisiting of information. This is not an emotionally intelligent meeting.

Instead, have a very clear and specific purpose for the group to meet. It is hard to delineate relevant examples that will match your meetings but here are four possible ones to show you what I mean.

  • For managers to have awareness of the major staffing issues that have arisen each month so that they can correctly answer questions from their own staff.
  • To demonstrate expenditure trends across all Divisions in order to increase compliance consistency in the use of financial resources.
  • To heighten awareness of the key HR issues that have arisen each month and which apply across the whole Division.
  • To achieve consensus on the steps needed to eradicate bullying behaviour across the whole organisation.

Providing clear and specific reasons for meetings helps in setting the agenda, knowing the level of information that needs to be presented, and inspiring people to focus the discussion and decision making. All this means more effective meetings and better time management.

When people are clear on the purpose they can devote more emotional energy to the task at hand.

Start each meeting by reminding people of the purpose of the meeting.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader and chair meetings more effectively? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

Emotional intelligence tip 2: Have an agenda.

I know it is hard to believe but there are still some meetings for which there is no agenda. Please send out the agenda in advance to everyone attending.

This makes it fair for everyone and gives people thinking and preparation time prior to coming to the meeting.

Introverts, in particular, prefer to think things through in advance and this gives them the opportunity to do this and for the meeting to benefit from their insights. It means people can arrive already engaged with the topics to be covered and not feel they are being put on the spot by surprise items.

The best meetings are those where everyone is feeling engaged, do you have the emotional intelligence skills to ensure this happens? Having a good agenda can be one of several steps you can make to contribute to this.

Emotional intelligence tip 3: Make the agenda items specific.

Part of your role as Chair is to ensure that discussions are right on topic. A specific agenda can help you with this. Many agendas I see are very general and this means that the discussion is not focused.

The more specific the agenda item the more people can be engaged with the exact issue.

The broader the item the easier it is for people to get distracted by side issues or other aspects they feel interested in or concerned about. This becomes emotionally draining which is not emotionally intelligent.

For example, instead of writing, "2.1. Insurance updates" say what aspect of the insurance you are discussing, why and what is required. For example, it might say, "Renewal of Insurance on Building C: Should we change the insurer or not?"

Emotional intelligence tip 4: Explain your agenda item.

If you are the Chair direct the meeting participants to the specific purpose of each agenda item at the start of each item.

For example, you might say, something along the lines of: 

  • "I am bringing this to the meeting because I want you to ...".
  • "What's important here is ...".
  • "I've put this on the agenda because this is the third incident of its kind this month and I need you to monitor the presence of this kind of bullying in your area."

Direction is important to help focus people at a meeting. Focus and engagement go together, and emotional intelligence is the foundation skill to ensure they happen.

Be a high EI leader and develop your emotional intelligence now.

Want to improve your skills as an emotionally intelligent leader and chair meetings more effectively? Then book into our smart leadership coaching package.

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.

Develop your emotional intelligence now.