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:

  • Laptops and devices turned off
  • Attentive listening
  • Respect for everyone’s ideas

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:

  • What are you committed to?
  • What gives you joy?
  • What new things have you always wanted to learn?

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?