Most of us have a love-hate relationship with meetings. Heaven knows I intensely dislike almost all meetings…it seems that many of the meetings I’ve attended were for the sole purpose of having a meeting. Often the actual reason for getting together got lost as the time withered away and we went off track…as usual. Some of the best ideas I’ve heard or implemented have come from a brainstorming meeting BUT most of the time it seems that we get lost in discussion with no action being assigned. This lack of action causes frustration and lack of direction.
Meetings are valuable only if they accomplish their goal. How much does it cost, in terms of productivity, to stop the workflow of every team member, halt their progress on whatever they happen to be working on and spend all the brain wattage on one or two topics? I can tell you it can be incredibly expensive both in terms of time AND productivity but it can also yield incredible fruits as well. Meetings should be planned sparingly with a clear purpose in mind and a written agenda. There should be a team member assigned to hold attendees accountable to the agenda and prevent the meeting from going off-track.
Be Careful of “Update” Meetings.
A meeting just to update the team is actually much less efficient than a group voice-mail or email. A general rule: if you leave the meeting without action items, question whether or not you actually need that meeting…especially if it is a meeting that is automatic, like a weekly sales meeting. Sales meetings aren’t bad, per se, but they often lose their value over time and cost more in productivity than they generate.
Get Rid of Monday Meetings.
Getting together just because it’s Monday makes little sense, especially when team members must filter through their blown-up inboxes. Most team members, with much to do after being gone over the weekend, will resent a meeting that makes an already busy day more hectic. While they may be present in body, mentally most will be checked out. If you have the bulk of your team not paying attention, then what’s the point?
ALWAYS End With An Action List
Begin with the end in mind. Structure your agenda so that the discussion will naturally move in the direction of solving the challenges you are facing or actions you need completed. At the end of the meeting, go around and review the action items each person has noted. Done correctly, this takes less than 30 seconds per person and almost always reveals items that were missed. This exercise has the added benefit of creating accountability and a sense of ownership for the items each member of the team has noted. If you audibly relate the action steps YOU are responsible for in front of YOUR team, then YOU are much more likely to follow through. That will be true of the rest of the team as well.
When a meeting ends without any action items, it is your responsibility to speak up and question the value of that meeting. Just be careful not to plan a meeting to talk about it!