The one constant in any organisation or project is meetings. For staff, they can be the source of engagement, direction and progress or can be the birthplace of great frustration, politics, avoidance and time wasting. Give me an hour to sit and observe a leadership team meeting and I can pretty much identify where the challenges lie culturally in that particular organisation and project. Put simply, they are the barometer to effectiveness.
So why is meeting effectiveness so important? In my opinion, there is no better way to have a fundamental impact on an organisation or a large project by changing the way they run meetings. They affect everyone, they consume precious time and energy and they are often a large source of staff discontent and cynicism which has a large impact on your culture.Some key insights around maximising meetings are as follows:
- Do a stocktake of current meetings. Review each one for value that they offer (if any), who is currently attending and who needs to attend and cull both in terms of attendees and the number of meetings.
- Ensure every meeting has a purpose and a formal agenda that focuses on what matters with clear timings. It is often unclear what you are looking to achieve from what could be a very expensive discussion. Are there better ways to achieve the intended outcomes rather than through meetings?
- Make sure every person that runs meetings has undertaken a meeting chairing short course. This is critical not only for them to manage the meeting effectively but also critical for attendees to see meetings well managed.
- Keep the meeting actions brief. Focus on actions and outcomes coming out of each discussion point and ensure meetings end with everyone being very clear on the commitments made at the meeting. Long winded meeting minutes are normally a sign of butt covering or politics which has no place in a high performing culture. Where people can’t attend a meeting, it is their responsibility to talk to someone who attended it if they want more detail.
- To ensure minutes focus on actions and accountability, also ensure that minute takers have had training on how to minute meetings. Both sets of training discussed will be a small cost for a massive benefit to your organisation or project
- Ensure there is accountability on all participants to prepare prior to the session. This can be strengthened by ensuring agendas, discussion items and information is put out well in advance of the meeting. Lock in minimum dates for getting agendas and reports out and stick to them.
- Put clocks in every meeting room. Timeliness is next to godliness and ensuring you have a focus on time, actions and outcomes does matter to attendees. Stick to time through facilitating focused discussions.
- Have someone review the meeting as the last agenda item against a simple review checklist. Their job is to debrief for three minutes at the end on what worked well and how the group can improve them for the future. It is frank, honest and ensures accountability around maximising your time together.
They may sound like small things, but if you wish to shift your performance as a team, go to the source of frustration rather than the outcomes. Meetings are as core to poor decisions as they come, however if you get them right, it significantly increases your teams effectiveness. Check your barometer and ensure it is really warming your team rather than freezing them up and disengaging them.