Meetings are an important and often necessary element of working in teams, but in many workplaces, they are dreaded, inefficient, and often not able to achieve intended goals.

Creating structure and using tools like leadership and emotional intelligence to manage and improve meetings can improve team morale, boost total productivity, and improve communication cross teams – simply because meetings become a tool for communication and collaboration rather than an ineffective to-do item.

Here are 5 ways to have better meetings.

Create an Agenda

Every meeting should have an agenda to follow, whether it’s on a digital screen or a written board. Ideally, this would include a timetable of how much time to allocate to each topic. Anything that goes past the relevant timetable can be moved to a separate meeting with relevant parties (most subjects don’t require everyone) to keep meetings on topic.

Similarly, it’s crucial to ensure that key decision makers are present before tabling and discussing anything. Before the meeting starts, bring up the list of agenda points and encourage questions in advance.

Ask Everyone to Contribute

Most team members can and should be able to contribute in a meeting, even if it’s in a small way. Taking time to ask quiet team members for their opinions or setting aside moments to recognize and highlight team members as part of the meeting can help everyone to feel appreciated and valuable.

For example, you can give recognition to a team effort or individual team member, ask others to recognize their team members, or create a 10-minute session where you go around the table asking each member to discuss what they are doing on that day or week that may be relevant to the rest.

Use a wrap-up to close the meeting

If you’ve had a good meeting, you’ve created solutions or discussed outcomes and next steps. It’s important to wrap up by ensuring that tasks and deadlines are assigned, that all action items have a realistic deadline, and that each assignment is given to individuals who can achieve those tasks.

Focus on Others

It may be natural to focus on what you’re doing, but shifting attention to others and their emotional needs is important. Problems often arise because of difficulties in communicating, stress, and individuals focusing on giving input rather than listening to others.

Recognizing when people are struggling, how people respond to both criticism and reward, and what they are capable of will allow you to better delegate tasks, meeting-room communication, and make decisions based on capabilities.

Be Accountable for Your Results

Meetings are often time-sinks, where you can become caught up in anything. Recognizing when you’re going off-topic, when you aren’t delegating well, and when you need to practice emotional intelligence to help your team communicate will help you to have better meetings overall.

Good meetings require a combination or organization, emotional intelligence, and trust between team members or participants. Working to foster all three with emotional intelligence, good workplace tools and structure, and by building good habits will help you to improve the efficacy of your meetings.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick