First a quote: “You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide the question.” – Bill Gates
Good morning and happy Monday!
Are you excited about going to your first meeting today? Would you like to go to more meetings this coming week? Are you feeling like you don’t get invited to enough meetings? Have you ever sent out an email asking to be invited to more meetings? I suspect not.
We know meetings are important for many reasons, and yet they have also become a source of disdain for so many people, in every walk of life. Besides the unpleasantry of the common meeting, I suspect more time is wasted in unproductive meetings than in any other aspect of business today. A recent study (2019) published in Inc. Magazine estimated poorly managed meetings waste almost $399 billion dollars each year in the United States alone. Note, this was before 2020 and the Covid-driven transition to all things virtual. (This is perhaps a topic for another Monday.) Virtual meeting fatigue seems to be a real thing.
Much could be written on the processes and techniques for more effective and productive meetings that are enjoyable to attend. I Googled book titles on the topic and came up with over 100,000,000 hits. As an organizational effectiveness consultant, I offer workshops ranging from 90 minutes to eight hours in length on this very topic. We can only begin to scratch the surface here in a missive intended to be read in under five minutes.
This morning, I offer three simple meeting-management themes for your consideration:
- Begin with the end in mind. It is always wise to think strategically when you are responsible for planning and facilitating effective meetings. Before planning the structure and agenda of a meeting, you should first be clear on the intended objectives of the meeting. What is your purpose for the meeting? When the meeting adjourns, what is your vision for the expected outcomes?
– What will be discussed and decided during the meeting?
– What actions will be taken after the meeting concludes and by whom?
– Is your purpose to gather information or share information?
– Is it a brainstorming and/or problem-solving meeting?
– Is it a decision-making meeting?
– Is it perhaps a team-building or relationship-building meeting?
– Is your goal to persuade, sell, or influence meeting participants?
– Is this a “good news” or a “bad news” meeting as perceived by the attendees?
The answers to these questions will play an important role in the design of the meeting. The answers will help you determine the appropriate invitation list, facilitation process, agenda, structure, and processes to be incorporated into the meeting design.
- Meeting on Monday because its Monday. I believe having a meeting on Monday because it is a Monday may not be a good reason to have a meeting. Please know, I understand the need for recurring meetings scheduled on a weekly or monthly basis. Certainly, there are valid reasons for standing meetings, as long as:
– There is a published agenda with defined topics and timeframes.
– Expected outcomes are still established and communicated.
– Participants know what will be discussed, how to be prepared, and what to bring.
– The meetings begin and end on time.
– You end the meeting when the objectives have been met.
– Participants recognize discussions will always expand to fill the allotted time.
– The recurring meeting is cancelled if there is no reason to convene (with as much advanced notice as possible.)
- Conduct regular “After-Meeting” Process Reviews – As I understand it, every branch of our armed forces makes it a standard practice to conduct “after-action reviews” following every major event. When lives and critical resources are at stake, continuous improvement is imperative. Productive teams seek feedback and continuous improvement on a regular basis, they proactively seek feedback.
Effective meeting leaders utilize that same practice in their approach to continuously improve the effectiveness of their meetings. Seeking feedback from meeting participants, on a regular basis, is critically important. I suggest asking your meeting attendees questions like:
– What works well in our meetings?
– What could we do differently, or better, to make our meetings more productive?
– How often should we meet? When/Where/How should we meet? In person? Virtually?
– What topics could be added to our meeting agendas?
– What topics could be deleted from our meeting agendas?
– What ground rules should we incorporate? (I like to call them “meeting or working agreements.”)
Separately, I once had a mentor that had me calculate the “hourly run-rate” for every meeting I wanted to schedule. He asked me to calculate the average hourly payroll for those expected to be in attendance and multiply that number times the length of the meeting to determine the estimated cost of the meeting.
He then also asked me to provide him with an estimated cost-benefit analysis for each major agenda item based upon the time allotted to that item on the agenda.
In truth, what he was really trying to teach me through that mental exercise… meetings are expensive!
He wanted me to know he expected me to make every minute of every meeting be value-added. It was my responsibility, as a meeting planner, to not waste one single minute of anyone’s time… let alone that one minute multiplied by dozens of meeting participants.
The simple math, wasting one minute may not seem like much until you realize, if you have 20 meeting attendees… it isn’t just one minute, it is 20 minutes. Scary huh?
Now, off to that first Monday meeting you go. Happy meetings!
How will you love, live, or lead, differently, or better, this week?
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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- “The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions.” – Patrick Lencioni
- “Having a meeting on Monday morning because it is Monday is not a good reason to have a meeting.” – Bryan Yager
- “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.” – Thomas Sowell
- “The longer the meeting, the less is accomplished.” – Tim Cook
- “Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer the meetings the better.” – Peter Drucker
- “Meetings move at the speed of the slowest mind in the room.” – Dale Dauton
- “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” – John Kenneth Galbraith