We Got to Stop Meeting Like This…

In my daily work with organisations, there’s one thing I see that’s seldom done well:

Meetings. They often are seen a source of frustration, confrontation and time wasting.

They often are seen a source of frustration, confrontation and time wasting.

And that’s unnecessary!

So here are 12 quick insights, in random order, to dramatically improve the effectiveness of your meetings while lowering the frustrations, confrontations and time wasting.

  1. 80% of the work is done before the meeting. Before the meeting, make sure that everybody in the meeting writes down their main three questions they want to see answered when the meeting is done. Ask them “What does a successful meeting look like to you?”. Make sure they send back the answers at least half a day before the actual meeting. As an organiser, you now know what the meeting will be about and what the agenda is. This is huge for building trust and a sense of direction.
  2. Have a Meeting-leader, a Note-keeper and a Time-keeper role assigned at every meeting. The framework here is simple: the Meeting-leader makes sure people stay on topic and prevents the meeting being side-tracked. The timekeeper will rigorously monitor time and will interrupt when someone goes to long. The Note-keeper writes down the decisions and actions, linked to an owner. Before the meeting make sure that these roles are clear and that they are here to help us have an effective meeting.
  3. Leader, please quit the monologue and listen at least twice as much. If you’re the leader, and if you want to create a better team; quit the speech. Your people don’t need to hear you talk for 80% of the time. Use the 20/80 rule: you talk 20% of the time, your team 80%. It’s your job to ask forwarding questions: questions that solve the problem. If you don’t listen, they won’t talk.  If you don’t let them finish their sentences, they won’t talk either. The result is a team that will not give you their best, and you have just made your job ten times as hard. Listen more. You got two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Just slow down and listen to what’s really being said.
  4. Do you want to be heard? Easy! When people have something on their mind that they want to ask, they will keep that thought in their mind until it’s answered. Until that time, they don’t hear a lot of what you have to say. An excellent tool to use here is parking questions on a whiteboard, so you don’t go off topic. People will feel heard that way, and they will be more willing and able to listen. Afterwards, ask people if they have their questions answered.
  5. Ownership of forwarding movement. Assign ownership to all the participants for getting their questions answered. If they walk out without an answer (or a way forward), it’s on them. That’s ownership.
  6. Is my speaking moving the conversation forward? Before speaking ask “is this in service to the topic? Is this forwarding the topic or throwing back progression?” If it’s in service, ask. If it’s not, stop it.
  7. The golden rule of Rapport. Don’t ever, ever, ever share content before having rapport. It’s a deadly sin, and everybody is guilty of committing it. In every conversation, it’s 20% rapport and 80% content. Remember: People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.
  8. Always ask for permission to share. Don’t tell anybody what to do. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Instead, ask for permission to share. Nobody wants advice, they will reject it, and both of you will be frustrated.
  9. Let everybody speak without correcting. I see this all the time. Somebody says something, and then somebody else says “Do you mean …. ” or  “are your trying to say … ” What they mean is exactly what they are saying. Don’t put words in their mouths. It’s important that people can say stuff in their own words. Don’t change the words, don’t tell them “I don’t see it that way” (of course you see it in another way, you’re another human being!) let them talk and let them use their own language, what they say is what they see. If they don’t say it, they don’t see it. And they have to see it for themselves first.
  10. Meetings are to create solutions, not to explain the problem. This one is crucial. Make sure that people understand that meetings are not to open discussions but to forward solutions. We don’t need to hear the whole history. We don’t need to hear how things wound up this way. Way also don’t need to hear who’s the blame for it. All we need is 20% describing what it is you want to solve and 80% creating options to go forward.
  11. Leader, don’t boil the ocean in every meeting. We don’t need everything to be solved NOW we need a sense of forwarding progression after leaving the meeting. People need to leave seeing more opportunities than when they came in. That’s your job leader, keep it as small, simple and short as possible.
  12. Don’t make long notes, nobody reads them.  After the meeting do not make long notes. Instead, during the meeting give people mini breaks to make notes. Like 10 minutes before the end. And make sure you agree to own what you agreed on (never more than ten lines), and that’s it!
  13. Get the sanity back for virtual meetings and web-ex calls. For virtual meetings: allow people 10 minutes to log in, get settled and get a cup of coffee. Then, talk for 40 minutes (with prep!) and end 10 minutes before the hour to make notes. When we run from call to call and don’t have time to make notes we forget everything we just heard. This creates an enormous amount of thinking in the head. It’s killing productivity.

Bonus:

Stop distracting yourself; it’s unproductive and plain rude. Did you know that the brain can do only one thing well at a time? So who’s listening to what’s being said when you’re on your laptop, phone, tablet or watch? Nobody. You might as well leave the meeting because you’re not hearing a word of what’s being said. And there is a ton of scientific proof for that, so don’t tell me that you can multi-task. You’re just kidding yourself.

So here they are; 12 insights (plus a bonus one) that will dramatically improve your meetings.

And everything else, if your really listening to what I’m trying to say 😉

Have yourself a productive meeting!

Rich