Along my career I attended lot of meetings, thousand of meetings, and frequently I came talking with colleagues about their use(less)ness. The summary of the global thought about them is:
Meetings are essentials when you won’t do anything
That’s fine, and we do know things are not like that. Meetings are called to solve issues where more brains are required to find out brilliant, effective, efficient, fair and very good solutions. So why tons of people came out destroyed and demotivated of a meeting?
With a pinch of honesty, when a meeting or a workshop is scheduled, nobody would attend. This is enough to tell any company to limit meetings. But why is a meeting so poorly useful and participative when it should be the extasy of thinking brains?
At first, is it really an extasy of thinking brains? Often meetings follow the 20-80 rule, at least in Europe (following important EuropeanUniversity researches): 80% of things that matter are told by 20% of attendants.
It is a monopoly. And this fact demotivates and dejects people.
If I have to listen to John, I would prefer to be sick
This is an unanswerable fact: who calls for a meeting, frequently do to tell a personal story, getting the whole stage. On 10 attendants, the caller and at most another person talk. No other. Reasons:
- Who calls for a meeting can’t communicate in a right manner, and can be perceived as the guru on the topics
- Meeting are managed following caller’s strategy
- Attendants aren’t able to talk both for willingness and shyness
- Decision are almost unattended if not changed
- Often, no-decision is taken
Ok, don’t feel sick. Even if 75% of you readers could have attended similar meetings or situations.
Organization lacks. Meetings at 90% are scheduled:
- with no agende
- with no objectives
- with no clear documentation
reasons swing from willingness to talk about anything, inviting people from all sectors, with no focus about what to talk about. No objectives, so no decisions by the end of the meeting. No common knowledge about the topics because anybody has its own knowledge.
How many times did you attend a meeting with a match on all the above three points?
Then, inattention happens. People writing emails, other playing with smartphones, other again making phone ringing and then they eyes shine: a real call! Let’s go out!
10 rules to behave and make a meeting happy
It’s a matter of behaviour: who calls a meeting, and who attend. Who calls/schedules a meeting must be aware that:
- Each meeting hour of any unrelevant person is one company money hour going away
- Team value is greater than the sum of singles
- Topics and correlation on a given context is essential
in a few words, it’s highly important to respect, consider, acknowledge participants and start to build something from that. Is it enough? No, so there follow a set of rules to begin having effective meetings:
- All people must tell
- Everyone must express his/her opinion on the matter at the right time – tell later is useless and wasting much more time in remembering and recalling
- Praise for ideas and colleagues work. Ideas can’t be the right one, anyway just the fact somebody has any idea and tell is a very good thing to enforce participation
- Accept and offer their working time to be helpful on topics. Someone complains about a poor growth without giving any added value to the team
- Anyone has something interesting to tell, despite it is its reality. From the poor nice manager to the less relaxed operative worker
- Express an opinion when requested from other people. If they ask, there’s a why and complain about “every time is the same sound” is too simple to say
- Do for yourself and do for other. When an help comes, think it is done with openness. Think about intricated retrospectives is useless and makes you feel worst. Accept, and offer
- Honor your job. What you do is important despite usual sentences like “all needed, no one needed” that sounds a little bit loser. A person knowledge will be different from others all the time. That’s why it is crucial!
- Add new people. And remember that any asked time worth, so be careful
- Give ideas to talk about how you make things, when things happen. Success is when all get benefits and the common knowledge is public. There are no secret topics or secret formulas because in this case no one will benefit, neither the owner
Starting from that will change things in a very positive and committed way.
How to lead a result-driven meeting
The first thing to do is to have an Agenda. Unfortunately the meaning of agenda is:
A set of elements to discuss about
the underlying intentions grouping a set of individuals
Both definitions are defective, in words and semantic. Discuss is a word recalling for mess and disorder, set of elements is a jumble of potentially uncorrelated things, and underlying intentions don’t seem so good to create and favour a culture.
Discussion then is a multi-valued term. People discusses about what they think, other on what they feel, other again will ask additional info and somebody would know which are the decision to be taken. A painful nightmare.
So what? Bhe, first thing to do is to use better defining words and precise definitions, and now let’s see what an agenda is.
Verbs define a process; verbiage define a mess. Take a decision means a decision process, create is a verb of making, schedule or plan is a verb for further checks.
When you have to create your agenda, a good thing to ask yourself is:
What are the desired outcomes?
Write down action verbs (decide VS deciding, create VS creating, …) and define objectives and results you want to reach. Everyone want to reach. And if they are company’s objectives it is even better.
Every line in your Agenda must be made of: VERB + SUBJECT + RESULT. For instance:
AGREE on the SET OF PRODUCTS that are MOST PROFITABLE
Finally, timing. A very good agenda has a time to start and a time to end. And the ending time is THE time to end the meeting.
Everything coming from a meeting must be addressed to 3 top elements for a company: purpose as the mission/vision, strategy as organizational and strategic objectives, meeting goals as what to get from the current meeting.
Doing this way, the company values and forecast will be clear and shared, so you’ll have a meeting leading company decision and not a company leading misunderstood objectives.
Preparing a meeting is crucial. It must be clear to invite, what every expected attendee would get as a result, what at an organizational level would be expected. That’s why:
- Save time
- Save people (and their time)
- Save money (for people, resources, time, lopped in following, recurrent same-scope meetings)
So far, the best 5 questions to ask to the stakeholders before to call for a meeting are these 5:
- By the end of the meeting, what is your best expected result?
- What business objectives do you think the meeting should address?
- Suppose the meeting is well organised; what would be the best change it brings for the company? And for the whole picture?
- Let’s imagine this meeting is one of many to get a result. What would be the ultimate objective?
- Is there anything you’d like this meeting would reach?
There are planty of inefficiencies in almost every meeting. A 2-hours, 10-people meeting produces (average) these results:
1 additional hour of meeting extra-time
30 total hours (people)
6 useful hours (20% people telling and comparing)
24 wasted hours (80% of presence not involved)
3 meeting next
The total is of 72 wasted hours and 18 useful hours on 90 total hours. With the organizational tips and tricks of the above method, with the same surrounding of people, you’ll get:
10 additional minutes of extra time required
22 total hours (people)
18 useful hours (there could be bias, so not 22)
4 wasted hours (see bias above)
max 1 meeting next
The total is of max 36 useful hours and 8 wasted hours on 44 total hours. Just a little difference, isn’t it?
82% of efficiency and effectiveness on a 44 total hours VS 20% “efficiency” on 90 total hours with usual method. I think you can take 2-3 hours to prepare the next meeting. And I do really think your Company would be happy, too 😉
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