Teams thrive when transparency is the currency used to exchange ideas and communicate, but in all honesty, nobody likes meetings. Meetings for the sake of meeting are just a waste of everyone’s time. However, well conducted meetings can bring alignment and open the floor for ideas.
In 1957 a British Naval Historian and Author, named Northcote Parkinson, articulated what it became to be known as the Parkinson’s Law and The Law of Triviality, and according to Wikipedia it can be described as the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. It is sometimes applied to the growth of bureaucracy in an organization…
For the sake of keeping the pulse on the day-to-day performance without overwhelming the team, I prefer starting the day with a quick stand-up ten-minute team meeting. Reviewing the previous day performance helps to keep track of the KPIs and allow for a quick adjustment in case of a negative deviation. This daily drumbeat is critical because who remembers what happened 15 days ago that threw the turn-around-time (TAT) off, right?
And remember, you cannot improve what you do not track and measure…simple as that!
For longer, more strategic meetings, I use 5-tips that help me to keep the pace, the focus and the results tangible so participants feel respected and appreciate the value of the meeting, because their time wasn’t wasted. My effort is to keep the Law of Triviality at bay!
Ultimately, we’ve all sat in an hour-long meeting that really ended after just 30 minutes or less, yet we’re stuck for the rest of the time just because the whole hour was booked already and the remaining time is filled with small talk, or even worse, side conversations that don’t pertain to everyone present.
A fail-safe way of conducting a meeting is proper preparation, and in order to properly prepare for a meeting, I recommend the following sequence in order to ensure we are maximizing people’s time and effort adequately. Remember, time is the most precious asset we have, and one we can never get back!
But even before sending that meeting invite, decide if a meeting is necessary or if an email or quick phone call will suffice. If a meeting is needed, I recommend applying the following logic and start transforming the companyâ€™s meeting culture, one meeting at the time:
1. Is this meeting necessary? If so, what type of format do I want to use to make it more effective?
We already decided this topic was going beyond an email or a quick phone call and it requires a certain number of stakeholders involved in order to reach a resolution, alignment or at a minimum a list of trackable action items to work on. Since globalization and particularly after COVID, we’ve all learned new ways to communicate with one another. Virtual meetings are a good solution, but I particularly recommend in-person meetings whenever possible. Nothing beats getting everyone together, focused on reaching one particular solution.
2. The who-what-where?
Who are my stakeholders? What’s the best time to meet? Where are we meeting? These questions are critical. If your goal is to be effective and efficient, be respectful of others. Don’t be that person that schedules a meeting during the timeframe in which people take their lunch breaks. Also, don’t schedule meetings too late in the afternoon or too early in the morning, unless absolutely necessary. Respect peopleâ€™s start time, they may have other commitments prior or after work, like dropping off or picking up their kids or spouses, if your goal is to have everyone engaged, please be mindful.
3. Prior preparation is key:
For the love of God don’t try to wing it, standing in front of the group you’ve invited being unprepared is disrespectful. Also, be on time. Walk in with a prepared agenda, be clear about the meeting governance and include a no-cell phone rule in order to keep the pace. Quick start the meeting by sharing the agenda points with all attendees, be cordial but to the point. That will set the tone of what’s about to be discussed as well as the expected outcome.
4. Be engaging, create a productive dialogue and keep the pulse on the topic at hand:
Your stakeholders may degrees, especially when discussing difficult or controversial topics, but this is your meeting, you’re the chief conductor of this orchestra, take the control and respectfully drumbeat everyone back to follow the topic at hand. If the meeting sheds light on the need for a dedicated meeting on a different topic, then take the action, commit to schedule a separate meeting to discuss it and bring everyone back to the original topic. Remember that the success of your meeting is based on achieving the outcome you set out to achieve, that’s your goal.
5. Follow up, otherwise you just held another waste of everyone’s time aka another unfruitful meeting:
Use a quick email after the meeting to share with all attendees and stakeholders the main points discussed. If follow ups are needed, during the meeting, create an action tracker with assigned responsible points-of-contact (POC) and keep people accountable. Ask them to commit on completion dates and track them. This will not only help you achieve the intended goal, but it will also foster a sense of respect around the process.
We have fallen victims of the infamous meeting-gitis, but changing to an effective, to-the-point meeting culture, will help you to engage others and reach your goals more effectively.
I truly hope you find these tips helpful, and I would love to hear your tips on the comments below. My goal for this blog is that we become better leaders one post at the time…
Until next week, God bless,