It has been said that a “meeting is in an event where minutes are taken and hours are wasted.” While this is often a common gripe, perhaps meetings themselves are not inherently a waste of time, instead, it is how we organize them that really is.
Most of us have likely been in a meeting where we felt like our time was being poorly spent. First, it does not start on time because the facilitator is nowhere to be found. Then, the topics seem to be disconnected and it quickly becomes apparent that the leader did not adequately prepare, therefore, no clear goal is in sight and conversations run amok. So, the stress builds as time goes by because it becomes obvious your time would have been better spent churning out valuable work elsewhere.
The fact that these challenges are so common makes you wonder why managers are still having meetings in the first place. The answer: Because meetings are important and there is a better way! Management Leader Brian Tracy argues that as workplaces grow more complex and performance tasks become more interrelated, it is essential to meet to problem solve, share information, exchange viewpoints, connect, and bond. When done right, a meeting is not only a powerful tool for management, but it is, dare I say, an enjoyable experience.
Here are the Top 5 Essentials to Keep in Mind when Running a Meeting:
1. Prepare! 90% of success is determined by preparation. Before you decide to have a meeting — ask the question — is there another way to hold this meeting or solve this problem? If the answer is no, only then, begin by defining the purpose of the meeting in 25 words or less. Answer this question — if the meeting worked out perfectly, what would the result be? Put the objective and goals on a written agenda sent out in advance so attendees can show up ready to contribute.
2. Honor people’s time. There should be no exceptions to the rule of starting and ending on time. If you do not get to finish, table it for the next session. If somebody is late, do not recap the information because, not only does it waste time, but it also conveys the message that lateness is acceptable. Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach who won multiple championships, believed strongly in punctuality and even went a step further because he thought being on time was not good enough. He said, “if you are not 15 minutes early you’re late.” It boils down to a simple act of respect — when you are late, you tell people that their time is not as valuable as yours and that erodes confidence. When you are on time or even early, it creates assurance and a sense of dependability.
3. Set up discussion norms. These can help guide the conversation. For example, Bob Frisch of the Harvard Business Review says a good norm to have is to tell the team that silence denotes agreement. This forces people to open up and get more involved. Other guidelines such as keep your ideas brief, be mindful of how much you speak, don’t interrupt, and always be kind to each other, can bring out the best kind of conversations. If some people, such as introverts need more time to process and perhaps a written channel to share their thoughts, that’s fine, choose the structure that suits your culture and individuals so they can thrive.
4. Wrap up a meeting effectively. Save the last few minutes to summarize the main points and assign ownership for each task with deadlines. Implicit contracts are worthless unless they are actionable and able to create accountability.
5. Send notes after the meeting. Send clear and concise meeting notes within 24 hours including decisions made and next steps. A single page is fine. The notes should state each topic discussed, key takeaways, and a list of actions to be taken. As the Chinese proverb goes — the palest ink is better than the best memory.
When a meeting is properly planned and executed, it creates a productive environment to engage in creativity, problem-solving, and healthy conflict. These sessions can bring a team closer together and engender greater respect for each other, the leader, and the organization.
Quote of the day: “You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question.” -Bill Gates
Q: What is your best tip to improve meetings? Visit our website and share your thoughts, we would love to know!