How to Run Your Meetings Like Oprah

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Nov 1, 2019

It takes a lot of effort to run an effective meeting. You strategize an itinerary, gather the right people in the room, and go through the effort to make sure your meeting is absolutely necessary (as opposed to working through it via email or some other workflow).

So when you finally sit down for a face-to-face discussion, you need to take a page from Oprah’s book. The woman is a legend — and not just for her “You get a car!” She’s built a business empire that’s proven to be impactful and effective.

When she starts a meeting, she asks three simple questions: “What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?”

They’re not over-the-top intellectual questions. They don’t require hard introspection or data-driven metric analysis. They simply lay out the intention for the meeting with clarity, removing any potential side agendas. When HR pros adopt this strategy — whether meeting with 10 people or just 1 — it ensures their time is productive and effective.

Here are four tips to set meetings up for communication that gets things done:

1. Address the elephant in the room

Something about meeting with HR makes people tense. Sometimes, it’s for good reason. When you “Oprah” the start of a potentially high-stress meeting, you address the most important topics by laying it all out on the table. Whether an employee is facing cautionary action or they’re up for a promotion, set clear expectations at the start of your time together to properly guide your conversations.

Likewise, during meetings with fellow HR pros, identify the large issues that serve as the meeting’s intention and tackle them head-on.

In all cases, be direct and honest in order to set up the meeting as a space to work through issues and come out with an action plan for positive change.

2. Give employees a purpose

Oprah’s questions serve employees as a mindset check-in. As they hone in on what they need to contribute to the meeting, it sets their purpose and intention for the time. It also helps them more actively listen and engage appropriately.

When employees know upfront how their specific talent, expertise, and insight play a role in the meeting’s intention, they’re inspired to contribute meaningfully to the conversation. This allows the team to spend less time waiting for answers to hypothetical questions and more time creating action-driven plans that create change and drive results.

Taking it a step further, invite your employees to name their intention for the meeting out loud. Doing so solidifies the agenda of all attendees and ensures that the overall outcome of the meeting satisfies the desires of everyone involved.

3. Create focused conversations

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of meetings — especially with larger groups — is the tendency for topics to fall off track. Conversation leads to new issues, giving the meeting plenty of avenues for potential derailment. Additionally, our ever-connected world provides even more opportunity for distractions from email notifications, calls, and top-of-mind thoughts.

Use Oprah’s meeting-leading questions to consistently redirect the conversation, reminding participants of the discussed topic at hand.

4. Help employees walk away feeling accomplished

More than anything, employees hate it when they feel as if meetings are a waste of their time. When employees meet with HR pros, they aren’t immune to those feelings, even with pointed topics and short timeframes.

From the beginning, lay out the intended result of the meeting in addition to the most important topic of discussion. Keep the focus on the development of a resolution and stress the need for actionable takeaways.

When HR leaders provide clarity and focus at the start of their meetings, employees leave with a greater sense of accomplishment.

And who knows — you may just end up as successful as Oprah.

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