Meetings… And Meeting About Meetings…

We’ve all been there… Another meeting on our calendar… Another seeming waste of time.  Meetings. Meetings about meetings.  We all have so many meetings to talk about our work that often it doesn’t leave us enough time to actually do our work.

The Year Without Pants talks about the culture of the corporate offices of WordPress.com and how they do their work and think about their work.  Most meetings are online which is somewhat of a different beast, but, for the most part, the same issues prevail. A few highlights from the book specifically about meetings that I found interesting:

“If what is being discussed is important, people will pay attention.”

“If the people in a meeting think its a waste of time, then either they’re the wrong people or what’s being discussed is not important enough to justify a meeting.”

“A good sign as a leader is when output is high and meetings are short.”

Here are some tips for leading your next meeting… Keep in mind these apply to everyone, including you!

1. Start and end on time.  Being late implies that your time is more important.  Value the time of others and the ripple effect one late meeting can have on and entire day’s schedule.

2. Keep it consistent and hold people responsible. Create a process and stick with it.  Use the same form for your agendas, create some consistent themes or practices. For example, have a round-robin in the beginning of every meeting where each attendees states their most pressing issue or project.  Or have employees bring an article of interest and give a 30 second summary.  While it may take a while for everyone to get in the habit of new procedures, if you are consistent and people know you’re serious it will catch on.   There is nothing worse than a lack of consistency.  It makes people unsure as to when and if your next idea will actually stick.

3. Delineate action items. Take it a step further by assigning responsible parties and create deadlines.

4. Send follow up notes.  And within 24 hours. Summarize the meeting and action steps so everyone is on the same page and you create a record of your team’s progress.

5. No smart devices.  Put the smart phones and Ipads away (except for taking notes).  If you’re meeting in person, make sure people are connecting in person. Otherwise it could have been done via email or phone and probably in a shorter amount of time.

6.  Be patient.  We tend to be uncomfortable with silence and fill the room with rambling in order to fill that silence.  Give people time to warm up, think, and respond.

7.  Leverage brainpower. Use meeting time to not only report out but leverage the brainpower in the room for discussing and brainstorming about strategic objectives.

8.  Do you really need to meet?  Think about whether you can accomplish the goal in another way (email? phone? quick chat?) or how you can leverage one meeting for multiple goals in order to maximize time.

9.  Be the scribe.  In Year Without Pants, the author suggests that while this is often seen as a chore, it can help establish your credibility as a leader and inspire the trust of your team.  According to Berkun, your team will see how you think and if/how you summarize things accurately, clearly and concisely.

10.  Share ownership.  Make others feel engaged in the meeting by letting them own a piece of the agenda.

What we’re doing
In a world of meeting after meeting, Alumni Career Services has started “White Paper Wednesdays” in order to focus on the future as opposed to the here and now.  Once a month (the first Wednesday) we block our calendars – there are no meetings and less emphasis on email responses.  We do strategy work the entire day – those projects that are often the most important but we put on the back burner because we are too busy responding to fires.  Similarly, Sarah will post later this month about the book she is reading called Quiet which mentions one company’s policy of “No Talk Tuesdays” where individual work could be done with a thoughtful approach.  For our chatty team, we haven’t quite gotten to these yet!

We want to know: what do you think makes an effective meeting?  What are you biggest meeting pet peeves?

Make sure you check out our upcoming webinar “The Art of Meeting Facilitation” on Tuesday, November 12th!  Register here

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