Ever noticed the reaction when you schedule a meeting? Attendees generally groan and think “I can’t sit through another meeting!” It’s true that meeting overload is counterproductive, but as a leader, you know meetings are imperative to get things done. I love meetings. Meetings inspire action. Every meeting inspires action. Even the bad ones. Well-planned and executed meetings do it better. But even with the bad ones, the simple act of planning for a meeting can breathe life into accomplishing your objectives.
Want to get something done? Schedule a meeting!
Meetings bring a team together for strategic or tactical purposes. They are a place to collect ideas and brainstorm, to distribute work for an upcoming project, discuss the feasibility of a proposal and more.
Engagement and activity go into hyperdrive in preparation for a meeting.
Let’s think about it from a few different perspectives:
The meeting leader: Even before the meeting, the leader has to collect his or her thoughts, think through what needs to be accomplished and by when. Set an agenda. Engagement has started.
Attendees – As soon as the suggestion of a meeting is made, attendees begin to prep for the meeting as well. They begin gathering information and thinking more deeply about problems and solutions. Some more deeply than others, but everyone is doing it more deeply than they were before the meeting was scheduled. Everyone is more engaged with the meeting than without.
The meeting itself is the high point of the engagement for the team where ideas are shared and decisions are made. During the follow-up phase, activity continues as attendees work to complete their tasks and action items.
So, why all the eye rolls?
Even though engagement and activity ALWAYS rise in preparation for a meeting, attendees don’t want to waste time. Neither to do leaders. Who does? A poorly organized meeting can quickly squash all that ‘meeting momentum’, flip the graph, and create a well of anger and frustration. I just sat in one on Friday. It motivated a lot of action, but also a lot of irritation.
Here are tactics to increase the effectiveness of your meeting and enjoyment for all!
First – Separate Tactical Meetings & Strategic Meetings
There is a great book by Patrick Lencioni called “Death by Meeting” that claims meetings are ineffective because they lack “contextual structure.” It’s a quick and interesting read. The author explains, “little is decided because participants have a hard time figuring out whether they’re supposed to be debating, voting, brainstorming, weighing in, or just listening.” For this reason, Lencioni recommends that you separate tactical meetings from strategic meetings.
Tactical meetings review weekly activities and metrics and are used to resolve tactical obstacles and issues. Tactical meetings are a perfect opportunity to check in on status of a project and help solve problems. Strategic meetings are held separately and used to discuss, analyze, brainstorm and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success. These are typically two to four hours long and focus on one or two topics.
Top 10 Tips for Effective Meetings
Meetings motivate more action (better engagement) when they are focused. You must start with a clear agenda and objective. When executed properly, meetings are time savers and highly effective. Don’t forget to be creative. This way, attendees will also think meetings are great!
Here are the top 10 tips to ensure a successful meeting:
- Set and circulate the agenda. Early.
- Ensure the right people are in attendance.
- Keep it to 10 or fewer people. I think 5 is best.
- Ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate.
- Be clear about the type of decisions that must be made. Is it unanimous, consensus, majority rule, executive or expert?
- Watch the clock and stick to your agenda.
- Use a “parking lot” to manage off topic items.
- Ensure each action defined has an owner assigned to it.
- Summarize the meeting with action items and circulate to all attendees within 24 hours.
- Don’t for get to have some fun! Read our top suggestions.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how a focused and effective meeting can inspire action.