I haven’t spoken to too many people who’ve said let’s have more meetings at work. And I’ve certainly worked with lots of organisations with a very ineffective meeting culture: too much time in meetings, too much time travelling between meetings, meetings that go too long, meetings that don’t seem to have an agenda, meetings that don’t create outcomes.
In Doodle’s 2019 research of 19 million meetings to produce their State of Meetings report, they found the top impacts of poorly organised meetings on employees included:
- 44% said they don’t have enough time to do the rest of their work
- 43% said unclear actions lead to confusion
- 31% said irrelevant attendees slow progress
I’ve noticed in recent weeks, as organisations move to a more dispersed workforce with many people working from home, as meetings are moved onto online platforms like Zoom and Google hangouts, that what was ineffective and inefficient with the meetings they were having before is now aggravated. Going zoom crazy has amplified everything that wasn’t working about meetings before.
Yet you can optimise your meetings by establishing the right foundations, starting with clarity about the purpose of the meeting. More than ever, you need to get these foundations in place to make sure that the meetings that you’re having are efficient and effective and create the outcomes that you need.
The first step, the critical step, is to identify the purpose of the meeting.
There are three primary types of meeting
- The first one is an information meeting, often called a round table meeting.
And the purpose of this meeting is exactly that, to share information. If you’re in this meeting, you have one of two roles. You’re either there to receive information that you need in order to be able to do your job, or you’re there to give information that other people need in order to be able to do their jobs or to make decisions. And that’s it.
2. The second type of meeting is a decision-making meeting.
The purpose of this meeting is exactly that, to make a decision and possibly to determine the next step following the decision. If you don’t have any authority to make a decision, then you shouldn’t be part of the meeting. And prior to a decision-making meeting, the information required to make the decision should already have been shared. The preliminary debate should be complete. The purpose of the meeting is to make a decision.
3. The third type is a meeting that is about doing.
And in today’s scenario, where you have a distributed workforce and a virtual meeting scenario, then this meeting can offer two opportunities
a) A number of people in the team can collaborate to make progress on the work activity.
b) It may be you set some meeting time aside for the whole team to make individual progress on their own work activities. You, as the leader, are simply creating a space to enable that focused work activity to happen.
A doing meeting can be used for things like planning, problem solving and collaborative work.
“Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.” Elon Musk
Once you’ve got a clear purpose for your meeting: information meeting; decision-making meeting or; doing meeting, then the agenda becomes very clear, the participants required for the meeting become very clear and you can create a highly-focused, highly-productive meeting.
It’s like coaching a football team to perform. You need your players in the right positions, knowing what their role in the team is, turning up at the correct field, on time and ready to play.
Next Steps to make the most of your meetings
1. Audit your meetings
- Have a look at the meetings that you’re being asked to attend right now.
- Review the meetings that you’re asking others to attend.
2. Make sure that the purpose for each meeting is clear.
3. Ensure there is an agenda that supports the purpose.
4. Invite the right participants. The ones who can contribute to the purpose of the meeting.
5. Set the right duration for each meeting.
Other benefits created be having a purpose and setting up clear foundations for your meetings are your meetings can be shorter and more focused. Each meeting can move at pace because you have the right people and clarity on the purpose and agenda for the meeting, which means you get into the meeting, get it done, and get out of the meeting. Then you can go and do the rest of our work.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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