Meetings are an essential tool in the work your team does, of course — but are you running yours as productively as you can be? You could likely improve the way you plan, conduct and follow through on the important points you and your staff members are covering.

But how do you know where to start? Use this new research to step up your game — and boost your company's productivity and profits.

Follow a proven step-by-step process.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Clemson University just published an intriguing study on the psychological science behind a fruitful meeting, and outlined the following elements as the key to that meeting's success. You need to:

  1. Plan by outlining your project's current status, and what it needs to move forward.
  2. Send out an agenda of the points to be covered beforehand.
  3. Only have team members present who are essential to the project's process or solutions.
  4. Ask for contributions from your team.
  5. Encourage laughter and humor — it helps foster teamwork.
  6. Keep the conversation focused.
  7. Send out minutes afterward so everyone is on the same page.
  8. Ask for feedback from those present as to how well all points were made.
  9. Follow up quickly on decisions you made at the meeting.

Be careful how you offer help to your team members.

When you hear about a problem a member of your team is having during the meeting, it can be tempting to plunge right in and offer your advice for a solution. Resist that urge.

According to a study from Michigan State, it's better to wait until you have the time to talk through the problem one-on-one with your team member. If you try to take over to find a solution in front of everyone at the meeting, your employee may feel incompetent in front of the group, too — and that may inhibit his or her best work.

Deflect flattery.

Meetings are primetime in many organizations for kissing up to the boss. Research from Oregon State Universityfound that employees who try to impress you will often slack off afterward, because they've expended their valuable energy on flattery.

Keep the meeting tightly calibrated so that every team member's full attention goes into the discussion at hand.

Ask for confirmation.

After a point has been discussed and settled, state the conclusion your team has come to clearly back to them. It can be as simple as saying, "OK, we all agree to put that press release out by next Thursday, right?" When you see and hear agreement, you know the task at hand is clear.

Evaluate your own performance.

Sit down and write out an evaluation of how well you think you ran the meeting to do even better next time. What did you accomplish that surprised you? What didn't you get to that you need to cover as an immediate follow-up?

The more reflective you are, the more effective your meetings will run — and the more efficient everyone becomes.