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(c) Sony

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Greetings and Goodbyes

Two of the most often overlooked aspects of running a good meeting are what happens at the very start of the meeting and what happens at the very end. It’s often noted you need to work hard at the how you will open the meeting, the same way you would work hard at the opening of a speech or talk or sermon. You need to capture people’s attention and enthusiasm in the opening 30 seconds. You need to explain why the meeting is valuable and why what you will talk about or decide is important enough to sink the hours into it that you are about to. And that is true, the official start of the meeting is important to do well and set the right tone etc.

And it’s often noted that how you end the meeting is important. You need to recap what you’ve discussed and decided, making sure that each task has been allocated and that each person knows what their responsibilities are and when their tasks are due and who they’re responsible to etc. And all that’s true too.

But each of those elements isn’t really either the first or the last thing you do at the meeting. The first thing you’re doing is greeting people as they arrive. And the last thing you’re doing is saying goodbye to people as they leave. Both are so important and both are so easy to overlook because they seem so obvious. But both can either be done well or done badly.

Although capitalising on the very start of the meeting is simple and somewhat obvious, it is still worth pointing out a few key points. Firstly, you need to be there early enough so that you can greet everyone as they arrive. This communicates that the meeting is important and that you value your people’s time enough to not waste it by being late and you honour their commitment to be there on time.

Secondly, you need to personally greet every person as they arrive, at least saying their name and perhaps shaking their hand. Again you just want to acknowledge them and show them that you’re genuinely glad that they’re here. It helps if everything that needs to be set up and photocopied for the meeting has already been done because you got there early enough. But even if that part hasn’t worked out as well as you’d planned, you can still greet everyone as they arrive while you set up. It just takes a little more focus and attention.

As more and more people have arrive, greeting the new arrivals becomes harder and harder because you’ll strike up conversations with those who have already arrived, or they may have some items to discuss with you before the meeting. And so you will need to keep watching the door in your peripheral vision or be constantly facing that way so that you can continue to say hi to people as they arrive while still maintaining your conversation.

Similarly at the end of the meeting, saying goodbye to each person as they leave again shows your team that you appreciate them and their time and their contribution to the meeting. This is especially important if the meeting has been tense or heated, or if there was some “healthy and robust discussion” where people publically disagreed with each other or with you. Sometimes after these kinds of meetings some people will feel like their relationship with you has been harmed by the disagreement, and that perhaps disagreement between ideas means a more profound disagreement between people as people. By personally saying goodbye and thanking people for their input you signal to people that the relationship is still okay and that you value them and their input and you put them at ease as they leave.

Getting the greetings and goodbyes done right is fairly easy and obvious, but it does take a bit of concentration and effort.