Many managers and executives assume that meeting leadership falls to the highest-ranking person in the room. But if there will be eight or more participants and there is a variety of topics on the agenda, it’s valuable to think about who should lead the conversations.

Letting other people lead meetings has three key benefits:

1. Staff development. Managing conversations is a crucial skill. As people on your team gain this experience, it will build their reputation and influence. Leading meetings lets them exercise these muscles, and is often more efficient than sending them to a training program.

2. Effective management of critical conversations. Skillful facilitation creates a conversation flow, elicits diverse viewpoints and achieves meeting objectives. While you may have strong facilitation skills, it’s possible that others can do an equally good or even better job. Sometimes the most important skill in a meeting is the ability to give people a sense of belonging so they feel heard. Ask yourself who in your group has the least at stake in the meeting and can just focus on managing the conversation.

3. Time to listen, reflect and focus your input. If you’re not leading the meeting, you’ll be freed up to contribute your perspectives. Think about whether there’s someone from another part of the organization who could lead the meeting so you and everyone in the group can focus on the topic. Sometimes bringing in an outsider is a good option, especially when tensions are high or an unbiased observer would help manage complicated conversations.

(Adapted from "Just Because You’re in Charge Doesn’t Mean You Should Run Every Meeting" at HBR.org.)

Harvard Business Review

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