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All meetings are not created equally. Here’s why.

Most people hate meetings. Yet, oddly enough, I happen to like them.

Now before you think I’ve lost my marbles, let me explain…

I define meetings in a very broad sense: a gathering of two or more people to communicate. Meetings can move mountains through honest communication. Meetings can eliminate waste and confusion by getting everyone on the same page. Meetings can bring to light risks the team can now work on to minimize.

Meetings are simply the gas that moves along progress.

So why do people hate meetings?

Maybe it’s because there are lots of bad meetings, such as meetings that provide more confusion than answers, meetings that make no difference to the team’s success or failure, or meetings that discuss all the wrong things. Ugh. No wonder meetings get a bad rap.

There are three kinds of meetings necessary for a healthy organization:

  • Working meetings: Team comes together to solve something
  • Pass down meetings: Sharing of information (All Hands meetings)
  • Report out meetings: Status updates, Metric reviews (usually includes recovery or continuous improvement plans)

Either you’re the Creator or the Attendee and in either role, only you can prevent BAD meetings. 

Meeting Creator:

  • Identify the meeting’s purpose and provide an agenda. No exceptions.
  • How many times do you get called into a meeting and have no idea why. If you expect someone else to provide information – tell them ahead of time so they can bring it and be prepared.
  • You are responsible to ensure the meeting’s productivity. Constantly assess if it is accomplishing your needs. People’s time is a company resource -it’s the same as spending money on supplies and tools. Are you being a good steward?
  • If a meeting needs a different format, change it.
  • If you find no one is coming it’s either seen as not productive or your time slot stinks. Change it!
  • If the meeting is no longer needed, stop having it. Heresy? No, more like reality.

Meeting Attendee: 

  • If you are a member of a standing report out meeting – own your information. The team is counting on you to share what is important for success. Come prepared to share the specifics of what is needed to improve your metric. Be prepared to elevate the “important”.
  • Don’t throw issues out without having first done your homework. If you see a problem, pull the right people together and solve it (Yep, you should have a working meeting before you throw out the issue).
  • Know your meeting types!  If you are reporting out, you better have had working meetings to support your report out plans.
  • If you are there to “just” listen – then take copious notes, communicate back, and think how you could pro-actively help the team.

Minutes are time consuming but necessary. Too long after the fact and they become worthless like day old fish. In a time-sensitive (or as a friend says “fluid”) environment, too long could be 12 hours. Have you ever tried:

  • An action item list. It’s a great way to track commitments, people and timelines.
  • A shared file. It could be as simple as an excel file and it can go a long way to keeping everyone on the same page.
  • A simple white board. Put it in a common area. Everyone can see it.

If we remember that the purpose of any meeting is communicating and we each do our part to communicate better – “meetings” may actually be liked. Now, who’s got the cookies to the next meeting?

Be intentional