Coaching or mentoring meetings can typically range from 30 minutes to an hour. They may vary based on factors such as a programme requirement that asks you to coach or mentor for a particular period of time, your availability, or what has been requested from you by the entrepreneur. You may also be being paid for your time or operating pro bono. Either way, both your time and energy are valuable, so how can you get the best results from a meeting? Here are 3 suggested steps, ‘GPS,’ to help navigate your way through a meeting:
- Gather – the first step is to gather information before a meeting. This could be your first meeting, or you might be in-between meetings. While a first meeting might be based on an application form or overall cohort information, a second or subsequent meeting is more likely to be information on progress or challenges that the entrepreneur is facing. Gathering information before a meeting will enable you to give some thought and consideration to how you might adapt your role or communication strategy in the meeting to be most effective.
- Plan – the second step once you’ve gathered information is to plan the meeting. Some entrepreneurs may send a meeting structure or agenda in advance, but this is likely to be the exception rather than the norm (although there is no reason why you cannot request one). Planning the meeting does also not necessarily mean setting the agenda. On the contrary, planning is more about having a semi-structured approach in mind. For example, when I’ve conducted 30-minute meetings, I’ve loosely applied the following structure with some room to manoeuvre:
- Warm up (around 5 mins) – this is the time in which the entrepreneur(s) joins the meeting. Allow them some time to settle into the room (for an in-person meeting) or adjust their audio/video settings (for a virtual meeting). Take a few moments to greet them and ask how they are.
- Main meeting – this is the key part and what brought you both to the meeting. You can ask questions that steer towards a focus such as ‘what would you like to discuss / achieve from this meeting today?’ Based on prior updates, your question may be ‘from our email exchange, is it ‘x’ and ‘y’ you would like to discuss?’ These questions enable entrepreneur(s) to take control and clarify what they would like to discuss. They may have anywhere from 1 to 5 (or more!) items, so this also gives you the opportunity to manage their expectation in terms of what you feel can be covered reasonably within the meeting e.g. ‘we might only be able to cover 1-2 of those today, which are most important to you?’ For a longer meeting which is 45-minutes or an hour, you can expand the main body of the meeting and cover more items, or have expanded discussions on each point.
- Wind down (around 5 mins) – keep an eye on the time and when you have about 5 minutes remaining, you should state this to send a clear signal that the meeting should start to wind down and reach a close.
- Sign out – the last step is thinking about how you will sign out of a meeting i.e. what is the last question you will ask? Some books suggest particular questions such as ‘what will you do?’ (Whitmore, 2017) or ‘what’s been most useful to you?’ (Stanier, 2016). These can be impactful in eliciting a verbal contract for next steps or reinforcing a key learning moment. You can use one of these, find another, or write a new one for yourself, but it is worth thinking about how you’ll sign out and leave the meeting, so there is a clear insight or action.
I hope the ‘GPS’ (gather, plan, sign out) structure has been useful – do give it a try and we’d love to hear how your meeting goes or any of your own meeting tips that you’d like to share! Drop us a line via our contact form.
Author: Dr Harveen Chugh, July 2021