When was the last time you were in a well run meeting? Did you feel good, energized, inspired, productive, connected, focused, on purpose, and happy you attended? Oh joy! Now think of meetings you've attended that are a waste of everyone's time. Did you feel distracted, bored, lethargic, frustrated, impatient, and unvalued as time was wasted. Oh dread! Time, time, time. It is one of our most precious resources. Yet more times than not, we suffer through inefficient gatherings that don't accomplish a worthwhile goal. It's time to revolt against dreadful meetings and turn them into joyful experiences. How?
What Is a Meeting?
According to Wikipedia, a meeting is "a gathering of two or more people that has been convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal." There are many types of meetings, from large to small, short to long, formal to informal. Let's talk here about work meetings which can be board meetings, management meetings, team meetings, staff meetings, kickoff meetings, project meetings, stand-ups, huddles, and more. The location can range from in-person to remote to hybrid, where participants can be either on-site or virtual. They can take place at all different times of the day.
Similar to what many of you find in your work, I participate in numerous meetings. As a trained meeting facilitator and certified management consultant, it can be frustrating for me when I'm not running the meeting and it runs amuck. Oh my! I recall a recent meeting, where speakers ran on and on, and important business — scheduled later on the agenda — was neglected because we ran out of time. In another meeting, there didn't seem to be any agenda, skilled facilitation, or time limit. As a result, certain people dominated the discussion. What to do?
Here are a few guidelines for making work meetings more worthwhile for everyone. Depending on the type of meeting, they may not all apply in your situation.
CLARIFY PURPOSE. Establish the purpose of the meeting. What do you want to accomplish? Is there an envisioned outcome? Sometimes it's better not to have a group meeting at all, but rather meet one-on-one with people. Do we really need to have a meeting?
ESTABLISH AN AGENDA. Create a list of items to be discussed. Keep the agenda short. Allocate time per agenda item rather than the meeting length. Send out the agenda with the meeting notice so that people can come prepared. Clarify what work should be completed before the meeting and brought in.
CREATE THE INVITATION LIST. Who is critical or required to be at the meeting? Who is optional? Don't invite everyone — just those that contribute to the purpose and have a role. Keep the invite list small.
GIVE NOTICE. Send out a meeting invite. Get the meeting on the calendar. Some meetings require a certain amount of notice.
START ON TIME. End on time. This shows respect for the people attending.
PREPARE. Come in with your thoughts. In order to save time during the meeting, you might send questions and comments ahead of time.
FACILITATE. Appoint a facilitator. That person doesn't necessarily need to be the CEO or the Chairperson. Ask if it's okay to share facilitation responsibility. If sharing that role works, then take responsibility to contribute and keep the meeting on track and help the facilitator. Gather the energy of the people into this space and time. Keep the meeting moving. Ensure that everyone gets a chance to contribute. Pass the ball to someone else to share. Summarize a discussion topic and then move on to the next agenda item.
COMMUNICATE CLEARLY. Gather your thoughts before speaking. Summarize your points.
SET A TIMER. Have a person who keeps track of time and will alert the facilitator to move on. This person can be a big help to the chairperson or facilitator.
RECORD. Appoint someone to take notes and document the important decisions made and next steps. Who will distribute them?
EVALUATE. In some way, gather feedback on how the meeting went and what can be done to improve it. How are people feeling at the end? Use these inputs to turn dreadful meetings into joyful gatherings.
|13.||OPTIMIZE CADENCE. What regular meetings do you have and how often do they convene? Verne Harnish in his book, Rockefeller Habits, says "To make more than just a lot of noise in your business, you've got to have rhythm. And the faster you want to grow, the faster you have to pulse. At the heart of executive team performance is a rhythm of tightly run daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual huddles and meetings — all of which happen as scheduled, without fail, with specific agendas."|
Let's work together to turn dreadful meetings into joyful experiences. If a meeting is needed, follow the practical pointers above. Steve Jobs would agree. The results are better meetings, greater productivity, and more fun!
copyright Theresa Szczurek 2023. All rights reserved.
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