So Many Meetings, So Little Time…
When you ask me to come to a meeting you are asking me for x number of minutes of my life. Minutes I’ll never get back. Please… take the time to make sure we are using those minutes wisely.
There is a great book on meetings by Patrick Lencioni which is also an entertaining read: Death by Meeting. If you are struggling, I definitely recommend it. But in the meantime, here are some tips:
One: Look from a distance at normal meetings and make an assessment
Look at everything, from the creation of the agenda all the way through to how the meeting is ended and next steps are determined. Ask me and my colleagues for our assessment. Tape the meeting and listen to how much you talk, how many questions are asked, etc.. I listened to a tape of a meeting recently and mostly all I heard was the leader’s voice.
Two: Know what type of meeting you want and need to have
First ask, “Is this meeting necessary?” Do you need my time? Some meetings become a habit rather than a necessity. Then ask: “What is the purpose?” To share information? To ensure coordinated operations? To make strategic decisions? To brainstorm new ideas? If you want interaction, what kind of interaction? Do you have enough time? Divide the number of people by the number of minutes we have and see if youve allowed enough time for us to participate. 60 minutes among 10 people is 6 minutes a person. Three agenda items. That leaves me only 2 minutes to weigh in on each item. Is that enough? Should we have fewer people or fewer agenda items? Clarity of purpose makes for a far more effective meeting, and helps me engage.
Three: Inform participants what you see their work to be
Don’t do all the work. Leaders often take far too much responsibility for the meeting, including the agenda. The more you explain what you want from me and my colleagues and invite our participation, the better the meeting will become. With each agenda item, share purpose, such as whether a decision is needed and by when. Consider sharing facilitation responsibilities on certain topics. Share timekeeping. Think about what else you can share.
Four: Create good beginnings, allowing time for people to connect
Good meetings are based on the trust participants have of one another. Take the time, even if just 2 minutes, to invite us to connect as people, not just as workers. Check in about how we are doing. Or about our drive in. Any question to create connection. When am pressed for time, you might ask us to rate how we are feeling from 0-5. If there is a real low number, is anything we can do to help. Questions like these not only create connection, but they help as a transition bridge to move our minds from whatever we were rushing about doing before the meeting, to our presence in the room.
Five: Teach the participants how to engage with one another
The Gestalt International Study Center developed some simple rules for good meeting flow inspired by the rules that govern birds ability to flock. Look at this amazing two minute video of murmuration. You don’t see these birds crashing into each other in flight and falling out of the sky because they can’t agree where to go. Help us learn to ask questions and listen for answer, to take our share of time, to segue from one comment to the next, to help summarize and close. Teach us to be thoughtful by giving us time to think when you ask a question.
Six: End well by leaving enough time to close the meeting
End the content discussions about 10 minutes before the meeting ends. Often participants aren’t certain what decisions have been made because leaders move on too fast, particularly when an agenda is full. Before you leave the meeting, make sure we all understands what has been concluded in the meeting. That doesn’t mean everyone agrees. It just means we have clarity. Make sure you’ve at least touched on what happens next. And just take a few minutes to close down the meeting, and acknowledge good work.
Seven: Periodically assess the quality of the meetings
Every few months check in with us to evaluate the quality of the meetings. How are we doing? How could we do better? Participants invited to assess the meeting will be participants who accept some responsibility for the quality of the meeting. After all, it’s not just the responsibility of the leader to create a good meeting. As a participant, I have that obligation as well.
All of us spend a lot of time in meetings. Increase the return on our investment of time and energy. Take one step to improve a meeting this week.
The one big component I haven’t talked about is you. How do you bring yourself to a meeting? You prepare your content. Do you prepare yourself?
More next week on work styles and triggers.