15 December, 2015

I Love Meetings

I Love Meetings

Photo Credit: Harris and Ewing

No, I do, they can be such a productive use of our time when they are done right – but often we walk out of them wondering how you will ever get that time back or thinking that there goes another hour listening to Dave from accounts hijacking the meeting.

The aim of a meeting should be to bring a group of people together to unite around a common cause and leave energized to continue to reach the vision of the organisation. 

More often than not we leave thinking that we work with a group of individuals who have no idea and there is usually one who you would rather avoid being in the same room as.

Meetings have been around since the beginning of time. The amount of time wasted on poor meetings doesn't bear to think about, so let's focus on what it takes to have a good meeting! Firstly it requires a good leader and an organisation with a strong strategic purpose. There are two types of common meetings and they should be separate. Combining them will only cause issues!

Tactical or Operational: These meetings discuss the ongoing needs of the organisation and aim to keep everyone updated on what is happening with various ongoing projects across the team. I believe that these should be short and sharp and everyone should have a time limit placed on how long to talk for. Often dashboard reporting can be used to save time at these meetings.

Strategic: These are some of the most important meetings an organisation who wants to grow can have. They need to be focused around two or three key strategic issues that the organisation wants to explore. These meetings can often be a bit messy, all over the place, have a bit of conflict and drama, but everyone should walk out of them with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

The truth is, there is no more valuable activity in any organisation than the regular meeting of the leadership team. But if they are not effective, there is little or no chance of building a cohesive team or healthy organisation. Patrick Lencioni

As someone who has lead both types of meetings, here are some tips that I use to ensure my meetings are productive:

1. Have a purpose: Be clear to people what the meeting is for and what the outcome is we are looking for. i.e 'Participation Pathway – This is a strategic discussion around our participation pathway and the development of our new recreational junior product.' If something else comes up that needs to be discussed, but it isn’t related to the purpose – park it to the side and decide later how to deal with it – don’t go down an unrelated rabbit hole.

2. Make someone responsible for each agenda item: If someone wants to discuss something, make them own it. They need to write a brief paper outlining where it links to the organisation's strategic plan, what the background to the issue or opportunity is and any recommendations or options they might have. This allows people to read things and ask questions before the meeting as well as ensuring the person bringing the item to the meeting is prepared. Everyone is then prepared to provide informed input and make decisions at the meeting.

3. Keep to the agenda: Disappearing down a rabbit hole can uncover things in a meeting, but also know when the rabbit hole is no longer worth exploring. Come back to the agenda otherwise you will stray too far from the purpose.

4. Keep to the time frame: There is nothing worse than a meeting scheduled for one hour that is still going after two, with no end in sight. This says that either there was too much on the agenda or the person running the meeting has lost control. Set reasonable time frames and keep people to the agenda!

5. Encourage conflict: I love conflict in meetings. Not only does it bring a bit of drama and keeps people engaged, but it also allows people to work through their ideas and come up with innovative solutions. At work or on committees we are surrounded by intelligent people, so it is important to get their views on things. Just make sure that a solution is reached otherwise the conflict can create distrust outside the meeting room!

6. Don’t be held hostage: We all know a Dave from accounts who loves the sound of his own voice and all the problems he has. As a leader running meeting it is your responsibility to cut him off. Cues like ‘Dave, does this this relate to the purpose of our meeting today’ will hopefully bring him back or ‘Dave, I think you can discuss that with Sarah directly after the meeting’. If done politely it will save a lot of drama!

7. Hold people accountable: Within 24 hours after the meeting provide some follow up notes including action items and who is responsible. There is nothing worse than having another meeting next month about the same items and covering the same ground. Hold people accountable for what they said they would do.

If you would like help with your meetings or some more tips on how to handle Dave, then please get in touch. Let’s make your next meeting the most productive one ever!

© 2019 Paul Mead