When you think of meetings…what emotion does that evoke?
Frustration? Anxiety? Annoyance?
Unfortunately, that’s normal in today’s environment as our calendars are booked and we try to keep our eyelids open for back-to-back-to-back meetings that don’t seem to apply to our responsibilities.
While many of these meetings can turn out to be meaningless, it’s critical to recognize the potential value of these collaborations. As innovation and “change” occurs faster than any other time in history, and business environments grow increasingly complex, we must incorporate clear, concise communication exchanges in order to survive much less thrive.
What is it about these time suckers that causes so much frustration? After putting some thought into this, I concluded that meetings are an intersection of this finite thing called time (which we are limited to 40ish hours in a work week) and communication, an infinitely complex interpretation of how we express our thoughts and how our words are received. Without structure and a deliberate approach, this intersection of time and communication descends into a black hole of productivity.
So how do we solve this collaborative communication conundrum? Here are six (6) tips that will help your organization execute great meetings resulting in productive outcomes.
Know the Meeting Objective.
Sounds simple, right? But far too often, we have meetings “because we always had them”. A manager takes the reigns, spouts some things they think they are supposed to talk about, like what happened last week, and what is going to happen this week, asks if there are questions (which there rarely are), and then everyone goes on their way. It’s CRITICAL to establish an INTENT to the meeting. Is it to collect KPI’s? Inspire? Gather team sentiment? Solve a problem? Ensure we are accountable on a project? If we don’t have a CORE GOAL (Calculable, Observable, Reasonable, End-In-Mind) – then our meetings lack direction and purpose.
Once we know the meetings “intent” and C.O.R.E. objective, then we will get a better sense of who to invite, how long it should be, and where it should be held. Frequently, we just start adding people to our invite list because it’s “easier”. Or we allow Outlook to set the time to one hour because it’s “easier”. We do a Zoom call because it’s “easier”. All of these “easy” defaults lead to the wrong people being in the wrong meeting for the wrong amount of time in the wrong setting. Be intentional about your 5 W’s.
Create an Agenda.
While this may seem obvious, it is often missed and frequently skipped for recurring meetings. This helps attendees know the type of meeting, what they need to bring, who’s attending and the intended outcome. This also opens the door to allow participants to help shape the agenda. Setting expectations is critical for all collaborative communication.
Create Action Items.
When most meetings are complete, we often look at each other, say, “great job” and then go back to our normal work schedule. Sometime during the day, we may think, “hmm, who’s going to execute on that idea we came up with?”. To avoid discussions which end up in a black hole of activity, identify the task, owner, and deadline at the conclusion of the meeting.
Don’t Mix the Meetings.
Have you ever been in a meeting where you are asked to report your KPI’s, give team updates, and then there is a pivot on “what great ideas do you have” that leads to a team members recognition? Our brain is toggling back and forth from right side, to left side, back to right side. If we really need to dive in a solve a major problem, or we really need to celebrate a win together, or we really need to discuss organizational values, it’s imperative to isolate those meetings, set expectations and keep them the length of time needed to address those challenges.
Navigate Meeting Villains.
The greatest challenges to any meeting are the “villains” in attendance. Personalities that perpetuate conflict, distractions, false consensus, or perfection will quickly derail any meeting. The best way to navigate this is to set expectations for the meeting at the beginning, and then professionally address the “villainous” behavior as it emerges. Focus on the behavior, not the person.
All of these best practices require a little extra time, thought and practice, but once implemented will lead to less meetings that are more productive and help your organization achieve your key objectives.
If you’d like to dive deeper and gather details into how you can implement best practices for your meetings, reach out to Velocity Advisory Group.