As a business advisor, I hear from C-Level Executives and from the rank and file employees of companies that meetings are not effective and they’re certainly not fun these days. What can be done? How do we get back to making our meetings productive and making them a positive experience for teams that have problems to solve and results to deliver? We’ve been doing some thinking and here are some ideas sure to help you move in the right direction with meetings at YOUR company!
No More Meetings Just To Inform – I hear almost every day that the meetings people most despise are those perfunctory mandatory meetings where the primary purpose of the meeting is to “keep everyone in the loop.” I think e-mail is one of the most-over-used tools in the history of mankind. However, if your goal is to keep the team informed, few tools can do that in shorter order.
Meetings To Discuss Solutions To Problems – Too often, meetings are consumed by a lengthy discussion about all of the painful aspects of some particularly nefarious problem that vexes the team. My recommendation: Send an e-mail to the team to announce the meeting, and discuss the problem in the e-mail. Tell everyone to come to the meeting prepared to discuss their recommendations for solving the problem, and give a brief deadline for discussion to be followed immediately by a decision about which recommended solution we’re going to implement.
Keep It Short – Human beings are notorious for our incredibly short spans of attention. Recent studies suggest that we have about 20-50 minutes of ability to focus on something before it drops off substantially. Given that, why would you schedule a meeting for 3 hours and make everyone sit there as you grind through a bladder-busting agenda of informational topics? Schedule most of your meetings for 20 or 30 minutes, and if you MUST schedule meetings for longer than an hour, give your participants breaks every hour, so that they can refresh themselves and be better able to contribute at their best.
Set Expectations and Ensure Everyone Contributes – Have your team arrive at the meeting prepared, and ready to discuss solutions from the first minute. Let them know that they must be prepared because they may be called upon to speak first. Document immediately the decision you’ve made, the next steps, who owns it, and when we’ll all get an update on the solution. Paraphrase and summarize the solution before you leave the meeting and get a commitment from everyone that they are on board to make the solution happen.
Don’t waste valuable time in meetings, get right to work and then get the heck out of the meeting and on to the next priority! With a little bit of discipline and some mindful preparation, meetings can quickly become more useful and enjoyable for everyone. The reason why meetings have gotten such a bad rep lately is that leaders have done a terrible job preparing and managing the meeting before, during, and after. Don’t be that guy or gal. Show your colleagues that you value them by making productive meetings your specialty!
Michael Beach is a management and leadership thought leader in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Michael works with C-Level Executives and their leadership teams to find ways to quickly regain the productivity and goodwill that has been lost to inefficiency and a lack of discipline. Michael coaches leaders to improve their relationships and increase their performance dramatically as a leader. How do you feel about meetings? Have you, like Michael has, been in meetings that were just an abomination of wasted time and ineffectiveness? Share your stories with us about some of your worst meetings, and Michael will send you his Best Practices document on Great Meetings. If you’d like Michael to help you to take your meetings from a value of two or three to a 10, send an email to email@example.com.