Dear Elizabeth: What’s the best way to open a meeting? I just started leading a project team and I often feel awkward at the very beginning of our weekly meeting, especially since I’m trying to gain the trust of my new team and leading meetings. Do you have any good opening lines or best practices? –New in Town
Dear New in Town: “Shall we get started?” is probably the opening line I use the most! That’s a good way of bringing people to order without having to tap a pen on the side of a glass. Also, speak a bit more loudly than normal if the room is buzzing. People come together in person in meetings and sometimes haven’t seen each other for a while. They use the downtime at the beginning of the meeting and in breaks to catch up and often talk about problems that don’t affect everyone else in the room. It’s good to encourage that kind of chat as you’ll find it’s the informal discussions that often lead to more work getting done.
If you’re leading meetings with a virtual team and you’re on the phone, then start with something like: “Hello everyone, it’s New-in-Town here. Let’s see who we’ve got on the phone before we kick-off. Did I hear Old Hand dial in?” Then check off your attendees.
If you haven’t got everyone together, whether you’re leading meetings in person or virtually, you have two choices: Either hang on for a bit or carry on and let them interrupt you later. I make that decision based on who we are waiting for and who is doing the waiting. For example, in a room of senior managers who are hanging around waiting for someone I could catch up with afterward, I would go ahead and start. If the person missing is the project sponsor, then I’d wait and see if s/he arrives in the next few minutes.
Either way, don’t let the people in the room hang around for more than a couple of minutes because it’s disrespectful of their time and tells them that it’s OK to be late next time.
I hope that helps!
Dear Elizabeth: I have to run countless reports a month—for my boss, our customers, my team, anyone else who asks. I know they’re necessary but they take time and take me away from the work I need to do. Is there a way I can either cut down on the reports or make the process more efficient? In other words, what am I missing? – Reporting to Death
Dear Reporting: Ah, reporting. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently and streamlining reporting is the single best way I can come up with in my own workload right now to buy me back some time.
Automated project management software is the way to go if you aren’t already there. These tools are, however, only as good as the data you enter (estimates, time logged, etc.).
The huge benefit of having project management software that holds all the right data is that you can set up your own dashboards or template reports and then run them whenever you want with a single click. The software extracts the relevant information for you, saving you from the ever-increasing circle of having to get more data. You can then tweak if necessary, but it’s far faster having the bulk of the content already done for you.
The other, non-technical thing that you can do is to make sure that you adequately understand why people are asking you for reports and making sure that you hit their expectations and timeframes. This will also help you to bundle reporting outputs together. For example, if you find out that a couple of your requesting sponsors have similar requirements, then you can do a special version for them.
Personally, I’m not a great fan of different reports for different audiences as I think it provides too much opportunity for moving away from one version of the truth.” Still, if you have to do them, you might as well automate and consolidate as much as possible!
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