Please tell me you are not asking me to read about running effective meetings!

Well, if you keep reading that is exactly what I am writing about.

A few salient facts to begin…

15% of your total employees’ collective time is spent in meetings. For executives it is significantly higher.  During COVID, it has exploded with the move to online meetings. However, of most concern, executives consider more than 67% of meetings to be failures. If we’re going to have meetings, we need to do them better!

It does not have to be this way. There are some simple, effective ways to make meetings an engine of productivity.

1. Be clear about what purpose you are meeting for

Is it a strategic, tactical, administrative or a developmental meeting? You will notice I have not put ‘informing’ in the list. That is because there are cheaper more effective methods to provide information.

2. Design your agenda to suit your purpose

Be clear about why you’re meeting and the expected outcomes. This clarity is not only a courtesy to attendees but helps them know why they’re invited and what’s expected of them.

3. Have the rules for each meeting appropriate to the purpose

Document these and distribute. The most important are those that describe the behaviours that lead to effectiveness.

4. Seek to understand rather than leaping to immediate solutions

In our haste to get things done, we often skim through items and opt for expediency rather than quality. Try and encourage genuine questions that elicit exploration and understanding of important issues.

5. Have the right people attending the right meetings

If you are calling the meeting, it is beholden upon you to scrutinise who is best placed to attend your meeting. If you are a participant, perhaps considering whether you really need to be there and if so, why? I have rarely understood why you can have 1 or 2 levels of direct reports attend the same meeting.

6. Does the meeting have a Chair – be clear about their role and document this

I have a real preference for rotating Chairs. This can be developmental for some and fosters collective accountability for meetings to run well. One of their tasks is to send out the agenda and any pre-reading well in advance of the next meeting.  My view is a minimum of 24 hours, unless there is a lot of pre-reading (I would probably question that also).

7. Document key decisions and actions arising with a time for completion and by who preferably within 24 hours

8. On a set regular basis, discuss how well the meetings are working

Are the rules being followed, can we have better rules? Constantly ask what can we do better?

In nearly all our recent work with clients, the need has emerged about having slightly different approaches for in-person than on-line meetings, and of course there is blended.

The most effective teams we see genuinely work together to figure out their new rules to accommodate the needs of those in the room AND online.  In our new reality, life just gets in the way of even the best planned meetings whether that’s because of unexpected absences due to COVID or the flu, the dog barking in the background, or the latest Amazon delivery creating distractions.

I’d encourage you to have a robust conversation where people can openly share their personal experience, so that the other meeting participants can understand what the home meeting environment is. We want to facilitate an environment where people can thrive – wherever they are contributing from.

There is no single approach that is optimal for all.  It requires understanding and a collective agreement what will lead to the effectiveness of the meeting for the participants.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people left a meeting saying, that was great, and I can’t wait for the next one!

David Gwynne

July 2022