Is the time you spend in meetings an investment or an expense of time and resources? This is a serious topic so I’m going to be more ‘business-y’ than I usually am… why? Because business runs on information, decisions and action; meetings only help with one of those three things. But do you know which one? If not, it’s costing your business.
Mark Cuban, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos all avoid meetings as productivity-killers. If Jeff Bezos needs to have a mentally challenging meeting, he schedules it for between 10 am and noon. We’ll run through some meeting strategies in a minute but, first, let’s think about what meetings are not.
Meetings are not a place for taking action because the focus is on meeting, not doing. If your team is getting together to take action, that’s a collaboration or project work – not a meeting.
Meetings should not be about sharing information – that’s what email, chat, phone calls, memos, reports, online discussion forums and snail mail handle in advance of meetings. The only exception to this is when you are meeting with a referral partner, customer or prospective customer to build relationship. What I’m really talking about here is team meetings BUT, even in the case of relationship-building meetings, you do want to create business value as a takeaway.
Make sure people are prepared in advance to meet with you for (minimal) informed conversations to make real-time decisions. One of Jeff Bezos’ meeting strategies is to require attendees to read a 6-minute memo in silence at the beginning of every meeting because he says it’s impossible to not be informed in that scenario. If you’re meeting with a referral partner or customer, make sure you share whatever information they need to make the most of your time together – your website, any agreements, articles you’ve written, etc.
Topics for productive team meetings include planning, mapping a plan, decoding a customer issue for quick resolution, brainstorming and post-mortem analysis of projects or results. A project status update or general information sharing are not good reasons to meet. In terms of relationship-building, make sure your referral partner or customers knows in advance that you are going to be asking for their business or support as a result of this meeting.
Now, you might need to meet with an individual team member to talk about performance. Occasionally, you might hold an all-hands meeting for a company-wide announcement or status update. However, meetings are expensive when you factor in the total time for people to attend; a 60-minute meeting for eight people is eight hours of company time – a full workday! Check out this online calculator to see how your meetings are racking up time.
The bottom line is your meetings need to be both effective and efficient. An efficient meeting starts on time, stays on track, and achieves a goal. An effective meeting means quality in terms of the right people gathered for a specific purpose to generate business value. Business value means delivering clear results – a decision, a plan, a list of opportunities to pursue and/or confirmation of working together.
One way to know whether a meeting is delivering value is to monitor engagement. If you’re bored with your own meetings, that’s a problem. If your team isn’t responsive and actively listening and participating, why are you having the meeting? If your referral partner or customer keeps checking their phone, I say end it and put everyone out of misery. Your time is better-spent where it’s appreciated and delivers value.
How Meetings Can Be Efficient
I can’t say I do all these things every time. But my team makes sure these are the things that happen for our most efficient meetings. (Hey – that’s not cheating – it’s smart delegation!)
– Have an agenda to guide proceedings. If anything outside that agenda comes up, get them handled later or start a ‘parking lot’ list.
– Invite the right people. If the meeting progresses to specifics where not everyone needs to be involved, release those who don’t need to be there.
– Prepare with advance information. Make sure attendees have what’s needed to make informed contributions and decisions during the meeting.
– Start and end on time. Open-ended meetings often degenerate in quality.
– Hold stand-up or “two-pizza meetings” (like Jeff Bezos) to keep it short.
– End with a tangible result and an action plan. If follow-up is needed, make sure assignments are clear.
– Take notes as a reference for what happened. Distribute afterward to catch any ‘loose-end’ thinking.
These might sound basic but it’s always good to have a refresher on what works for meeting efficiency.
Effective Meeting Tips
When it comes to being effective, here are a few more pointers my team offers up.
– Focus. Make sure everyone can be and is 100% present. No multi-tasking – if someone is distracted, excuse them to get their priorities handled.
– Schedule problem-solving meetings first. Early in the day means less distraction and more creative energy.
– Invite deeper thinking with ‘psychological safety’. Create an environment where people can share openly with controversial ideas, off-the-wall suggestions or out-of-the-box thoughts. Use open-ended questions to invite contributions. (This is one of my personal favorites – the best stuff comes out of blue when you let it happen.)
– Involve all attendees, regardless of role, rank or time with the company. If one person starts to dominate the meeting, handle it – give them a task, like taking notes, to transition them into listening mode or call on others to share their thoughts.
– If the goal is a decision, make sure you get it before you end the meeting.
– End prematurely if business value isn’t being achieved.
– Ask for 5-minute feedback from attendees to see how your meetings can be improved.
– Was this meeting helpful? Did the meeting result in business value?
– Was the agenda and purpose clear?
– Was it easy for you to contribute?
– Was there anything you would change to make this a better meeting?
The Big Takeaway
Your time is your most precious asset. When you need to have a meeting, it has to count – it has to build your business in some tangible way. Consider where you are investing your time in meetings wisely.
And if you have any questions on this, let’s have a meeting – NOT! But do share them below… let’s get them handled so you are investing your time (vs. spending it) when you do need to have meetings.
Carl White, Chief Officer of Coolness
Article Originally Posted on LinkedIn
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