We have all been there, sitting in a staff meeting listening to update after update. 90% of the topics are pointless and should have been sent through email or skipped altogether. As you sit there, you begin to think about the deadlines that are fast approaching. “I need to finish my budget, I need to call a client and make sure that the product arrived on time, I need to make some updates to the company website.”
As the meeting gets closer to the hour mark and eventually creeps past the time allotted, there has still been no value added to your day. “Now I have to push deadlines on projects or I will have to hurry to get things done”. In my experience, the more responsibility someone has in a company the more they like to hear themselves speak. Get off your high horse and get to the point, Bill Lumbergh. The meeting finally comes to an end and you ask your co-worker, “what did we just talk about.”
I am a firm believer that all meetings need to have two things in order to provide meaningful value – discussion and action items. If there is no open-ended discussion or you leave with no action items, then the meeting was a complete waste of time. For the record, only invite participants who are directly impacted by what you have to say. Also, provide something employees can use in their daily activities to help advance the company forward, help them be more successful in their job. Let’s look at how to conduct a meeting.
I believe that no one person is smarter than the group. If you believe you are the smartest person in the room, you need to look in the mirror and have a heart to heart with yourself. If you invite me to a meeting and you are just looking for reassurance on the direction you are going with, but my input is not valued, you’re going to lose my interest quickly and I will most likely decline your next meeting invitation.
Not to sound rude, but your project is important to you, not to me. Now, if you want my input to help you move your project along or bring the group together to get more ideas because you have hit a roadblock, I am all for it and will do whatever I can to help. A discussion is vital to an organization, without deep discussion, the organization continues with the status quo.
Imagine that you are sitting in a staff meeting. Your director says, “sales were high last week, great job everyone. Now let’s hear about Sally’s volunteer opportunity.” What do you want me to get from this? I don’t care about Sally’s opportunity, I have things at my desk to finish and would prefer to leave the office at a reasonable time.
Now let’s take a different look regarding the same scenario. You sit down for your staff meeting and your director says, “sales were high last week, great job everyone.” But instead of following up on Sally’s volunteer opportunity, he follows up with, “What did we do different last week? How did we finish this.” Now I am engaged.
We can talk about what happened and how we continue to improve upon what we did last week. No offense Sally, but we are all here to move the company forward, not to hear about your time volunteering. But let’s talk about it over lunch or coffee I would love to hear about it.
If there is a meaningful discussion, the staff will leave with ideas, motivation, or more questions to figure out. It can also help set priorities for the upcoming week, month, and year. It will give a clear direction of what the company needs to do to improve.
When you leave a meeting you should have a clear list of action items. If you ever leave a meeting without some takeaway, the meeting organizer has failed you. I think this is why most conferences are a waste of time. The presenter drones on and on about his findings, but in no way talk about how you can use this information to get more done and add value to your day.
In the staff meeting example above, we talked at length about the success factors from last week. Now we need to create an action list. After our discussion, you are going to have to push a task or two until later in the month or scrape it all together. You might need to go back and update the website with the same customer message or make a few more client calls. But the meeting leads you to have something to do, something to add value, now you can go do it and help move the company forward.
One warning, don’t give action items, just to give out action items. Make sure that these action items help move the ball down the field for the company.
How To Conduct A Meeting
Why do people hate meetings? It’s because they are unproductive. In fact, 45% of managers feel employees would be more productive if their company banned meetings one day a week. We all know that meetings will never go away, so here is a list of items that you should look at before calling your next meeting.
- Publish an agenda beforehand – this will let employees gather thoughts before the meeting.
- State the purpose of the meeting at the beginning – set the tone and what you expect.
- Encourage discussion – discussion can open the door to valuable action items.
- Have a goal for the meeting – with no goal it is easy to get off task and waste time.
- Do not include project updates – employees will seek the information if needed.
- Make sure to assign action items – everyone should leave a meeting with something-to-do.
- Pick a day when nobody can schedule a meeting – I suggest Friday, let your employees start the weekend early.
- Publish meeting minutes – this keeps everyone on the same page and accountable.
- Meetings need to finish at:15 or:45 – give yourself 15 minutes to breathe before the next task.
Meetings can be productive in your business if you run them with a purpose in mind. So, before you send out that next meeting invite, make sure to ask, “What do I expect to get out of this meeting.” If the answer is nothing, do not hit the send button. If your meetings do not include discussion or action items, you might want to rethink your next meeting. I know that this can be a complete company culture shock, but let’s all get more productive and get things done.