Putting Meaning in Meetings
They may be the most dreaded words heard or read in business today . . .
You Have Been Invited to a Meeting.
Long before The Office exposed the uselessness of most meetings, those of us who have held corporate jobs have come to understand that by and large meetings fail to meet their objective — if there is a stated objective. Meetings are far too frequent, run far too long and many times serve only the needs of the one who scheduled it.
While it will be impossible to ever eliminate meetings from the corporate world, there are some guidelines that can be established to ensure that meetings become more productive and deliver value to your business and those involved.
Here are my recommendations for ensuring you get the most value from your business meetings.
Have a Defined Agenda and Purpose
I was speaking to a colleague this week who mentioned to me that in order to have a meeting in their organization the meeting owner has to establish a clear agenda and meeting purpose. If this is not done, those who are invited are permitted to decline the meeting.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, the number of meetings that have no clearly defined purpose is most often a waste of time. Having an agenda and purpose as well as aligning that purpose to each attendee will ensure that the time is of value.
Have a Debrief
I once worked with a client who made it a consistent practice to have a debrief in the last 5 minutes of every meeting. The debrief focused on two key questions:
- Did the meeting accomplish the stated objectives?
- What could we have done better to make the meeting more productive?
The questions were posed to each participant and each had between 30–60 seconds to answer and provide their input. All of the information provided by the attendees was used to ensure subsequent meetings were even more valuable.
Wait For the Period
It was during one of the board meetings for a non-profit where I learned the importance of waiting for the period. During the meeting, one of the members, in their desire to contribute to the conversation continued to interrupt other board members and as a result, was taking away from the value of the communication and the meeting.
As we moved from one agenda item to the next, the chairman of the board stopped and said, “going forward for this meeting and all others, we are going to all wait for the period.” He went onto explain that each person should be given the opportunity to speak and share their thoughts. Additionally, he added that giving this level of respect would help us all to listen rather than to react.