Use Meetings to Build RelationshipsMeetings are a part of life for many leaders. Some hate them, some view them as a waste of time, and others simply walk away unsure of what that last 40 minutes was even about.

There are numerous ways to improve meetings, from communicating what will be discussed to setting a time limit, but in the end, they should always be useful for your team.

Mary Jo Asmus, contributor to SmartBlog on Leadership, poses an interesting take on meetings. She suggests you use them to build relationships that make your workplace thrive.

Meetings don’t have to be boring. They can be for making a decision or setting a course of action, but they are also excellent exercises in collaboration, discussion, and feedback. Like Asmus says, they are a great place to build relationships among your team members. Employees who forge good relationships and work well together are more productive and have a better attitude.

“What we really need is to have meetings that allow relationships to deepen, where participants help each other to grow and succeed together,” says Asmus. “In addition to actionable items, a good meeting could increase trust among the participants, thereby promoting deeper relationships and more post-meeting connections and engagement.”

She offers some ideas to consider for better meetings.

Set Clear Intentions

Let the participants know the purpose of the meeting, whether it’s to build relationships, brainstorm, or cultivate participation. It will help them prepare and having everyone on the same page increases efficiency.

Meeting Space

If you can choose where you’ll meet, pick a casual area. “Somewhere where participants can relax and ‘let their hair down,’” says Asmus. Round tables and comfortable chairs make a space informal, which is a great way to start conversations and build relationships.

Set Guidelines

Asmus suggests you set some ground rules such as:

Break the Ice

Start with a personal question each person in the room can answer briefly. It loosens everyone up, and gets them all to engage in the conversation. It also provides information for post-meeting chats among the participants, and they may even find they have something in common. Examples of questions include:

Let Participants Talk

Tell the participants you will act as the facilitator of the conversation, not the presenter. To do this, try assigning agenda items to others so they can contribute to the conversation, and only ask questions to stimulate dialog if you notice a lag in the meeting. Asmus says to aim to listen 80 percent of the time and talk the other 20 percent.

Meet in Smaller Groups

If no one wants to speak up or the conversation is stifled, break people up into smaller groups, and pose a question for them to discuss. “This is often a more comfortable way for people to speak up,” says Asmus.

Use meetings to strengthen internal networks. This will ultimately lead to improved collaboration, problem solving, and higher morale.

Do you use meetings to build connections between employees?

How to Snap Out of Your Leadership StruggleIt happens to every leader at some point in his or her career - a vague unhappiness with your job, frustration with circumstances beyond your control, a sense that no matter how hard you work, nothing much is getting done. It’s all part of what executive coach Mary Jo Asmus calls the leadership struggle, and while getting out of that struggle may not be easy, change is possible.

In a post for Smart Blog on Leadership, Asmus outlines steps you can take to ease leadership struggle, “clearing your heart and your mind for making decisions and taking action that will send you on your way to greatness.”

Eight Steps to Take to Snap Out of Your Leadership Struggle

Take a Vacation

Chances are you have vacation time waiting to be used. “Travel and R&R are great ways to get your energy back,” Asmus notes. “Your organization won’t fall apart, and you’ll come back to work with renewed energy and new ideas.”

Expand Your Range of Knowledge

Pursue a new hobby or take a class. This helps you “to focus on something else and perhaps generate fresh ideas for moving upward.”

Build a Support Group

Look to friends, colleagues and family members who can offer encouragement during your struggle. With a “mastermind group of peers,” you can get support and inspiration and reciprocate as well to others in need.

Hire a Coach

If you have “a sensation of inability to move forward with goals or a sense of being ‘stuck,’” an executive coach may offer a way out of the rut “that is customized for you.”

Take Small Steps

“Sometimes it only takes a small step to start to get out of your struggle,” Asmus says. Think about where you can start and what first small step you can take to change your situation. “Take that step and those that follow may be easier.”

Take Care of Your Health

Your leadership struggle may be related to how well you’re taking care of yourself. Pay attention to what you eat, the amount of sleep you’re getting and your level of regular exercise. “Your struggle may be eased and overcome when you take care of yourself.”

Learn From Other Leaders

You can learn about coping strategies by observing other leaders in times of crisis. “Better yet, observe other leaders at their best,” Asmus says. “Sometimes ‘trying out’ something you observe them doing effectively” offers insights into dealing with your own struggles.

Focus On the Needs of Others

“When you struggle, you’re focused inward on yourself.” One way out of that struggle is by turning your attention to the needs of others. Helping people overcome hardship (whether it’s advising a family member or providing community service) may help put your own struggle into perspective, “making it less ominous.” The good feeling that comes with helping others will certainly give you renewed strength to conquer your leadership struggle.

How do you cope with your leadership struggles?

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