For leaders, meeting are as common as brushing their teeth–and just as necessary. Many managerial “toothaches” could have been prevented with a meeting of the minds and a negotiated plan of action. Members of your team need to be the first to know of policy or schedule changes, and be given an option to provide their input. When your team is left out in the cold, you can be sure relationships will turn icy.

The frequency of meetings is optional, but their regularity creates a comfort zone for your team. Fact is meetings aren’t more productive because of their frequency; they are more productive because they are planned that way. I think there at least four key ingredients of a productive meeting.

First, it should have a definite purpose. That begins with you, the leader. If you are able to clearly define the purpose of the meeting, your team will be more apt to see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation. You could give a one-sentence purpose in you meeting invitation. For example, “Our Wednesday meeting will include staffing the new creative arts department.”

Second, it should have a planned agenda. Written or not, you need to know which topics will be on the table. A written agenda for regularly scheduled meetings is less of an option. It is the “map” that leads participants to a common destination.

Third, it should have time parameters. Setting an end time, as well as a start time, gives your team a sense of urgency and prevents “conversational side trips.” It also serves as a leash for those who tend to lunge at every opportunity to give their extended opinion.

Fourth, it should be kindly kept on track. As Chair of the meeting, you have the obligation to keep its focus on the agenda. Sometimes that will include a kindly interruption. “That’s a good idea, Sheila, let’s put that on next week’s agenda.” Kindness and courtesy are never out of order.

You are the guide that leads meeting participants up to peaks of victory and through the valleys of discouragement. Lead cheerfully, confidently, and purposefully. Give time for input without being critical or defensive. And always remember to close the conversation with affirmation.

You are loved.