Meetings are a waste of time…or are they?

Meetings are a waste of time. True or False? I am sure there are many people reading this post who are nodding their heads in agreement. Perhaps you, like me, have sat in countless meetings that have been a colossal waste of time. They started late and ended late. Had no clear purpose or agenda. Lacked leadership who could keep the conversation on point. Maybe even lacked a decision maker who could resolve issues by making a decision in the moment. What about people who talk because they like the sound of their own voice? Or pile on top of what everyone else is saying beating the dead horse? The meeting could have been done in half an hour but instead it ran over an hour still with no resolution. Sound familiar?

So are meetings a waste of time? Or is it what happens in the meetings that make it a waste of time? Imagine a productive meeting. That starts and ends on time. With the right people in attendance. A clear purpose and agenda. Focus to solving the issue at hand and making sure that the key takeaways were cascaded to people outside the meeting who needed the info. Does this sound too good to be true? It is possible!

What will it take to create an Effective Meeting?

As a consultant, I see my share of organizations who struggle, albeit unintentionally, to run effective meetings. Meetings are scheduled for a reason, right? We either have something to resolve, a decision to be make or an update to be share. So if they start out with these noble purposes, why are they so ineffective?

They are ineffective because no one is speaking up and saying they are ineffective. No one is demanding a change in how meetings are run. We just believe that meetings are like this and will never get better. It is time to SPEAK UP! Start by changing how your meetings are run. It just might be contagious to others in your organization. Imagine being the one who turns the tide! By the way, this cadence works whether the meeting is in person or virtual.

Cadence: Before the Meeting

There are three components of meetings to consider: before, during and after the meeting. I have chunked these out to make it easier to identify which areas you need to focus on!

BEFORE THE MEETING:

  • Provide a clear purpose for the meeting in the meeting planner
    • Literally spell it out: “The purpose of this meeting is to…”
  • Set the correct length of time for the meeting
  • Invite the right people
    • Make sure a decision maker is present
    • Don’t over-invite – everyone has an opinion and it can drag out the meeting discussion
  • Build and publish the agenda prior to the meeting (within 24 hours is optimal)
    • Agenda for this meeting:
      • Make sure the Issue(s) that needs to be resolved have been identified in the PURPOSE of the meeting (be specific)
      • Discuss the root cause of the issue (my favorite approach to do this is the ‘5 Whys‘)
      • Review potential solutions
      • Make a decision
      • Identify Action Items / To Do’s, Assign a time line and Owner
      • Does anything need to be cascaded to the team?
      • Does a follow up meeting need to be scheduled?
    • Ask the attendees to let you know if there is anything that needs to be added to the agenda or if anyone else needs to be invited.

Cadence: During the Meeting

DURING THE MEETING:

  • Start the meeting on time; welcome everyone and thank them for being there on time!
  • Follow the Agenda that was shared before the meeting (if it is a virtual meeting, share the agenda on the screen)
  • Assign a note taker who will manage a parking lot (keep the meeting from going down a rabbit hole). They will also send out a recap/action items after the meeting
  • End the meeting on time

Cadence: After the Meeting

AFTER THE MEETING:

  • Send out notes with action items within 24 hours of the meeting and if possible, the same day.
  • Include a timeline for completion
  • Assign an owner to each action item
  • Thank everyone for their contribution

Bring Out the Best In Everyone Who Attends

Following the cadence shared above is a great first step. Bringing out the best in everyone who attends your meeting goes a long way to making people want to attend your meetings in the future! Here are some simple steps:

  • Don’t criticize other people’s ideas. Statements like “tell me more about that” is a great way to learn more and demonstrating curiosity!
  • Don’t be afraid to voice your ideas, even if they might seem outside the box. Encourage others to do the same.
  • Create an atmosphere that is fun and creative when problem solving.

“Leadership is the ability to recognize what people do best…let them do it!”

“Like the eagle, once we have learned to soar it almost feels effortless.”

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Be Quiet and Listen

When you are the initiator of the meeting, it is easy to feel like you need to do all the talking or fill any quiet gaps with your thoughts. Learn to allow for silence. A rule of thumb is 20 seconds of silence allows others to think and speak out.

Soliciting different points of view will eliminate the group pressure to share common beliefs. Input from varying perspectives is the best way to get to the right decision.

Be collaborative by asking everyone to share their opinion. If things get heated, take command of the room and keep things from exploding. Humor can help diffuse the situation too.

Can YOU make a Difference?

If you think your meetings need an overhaul, try applying this cadence to your next meeting. If you can change the way you lead meetings to make them more effective, you will begin to influence colleagues and peers, maybe even supervisors to adopt your new cadence. Imagine what might happen if you could create a ripple effect in your organization and make meetings effective! What might the impact be?

If you need help, email me at Rachel@runninggreatstores.com. I am happy to answer questions or brainstorm solutions!

Always in your Corner,

Rachel Williamson Running Great Stores
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