Make Meetings Matter
“Meetings, bloody meetings”.
John Cleese parodied the typical meeting structure many years ago. And that same dread of meetings still holds on today, over 20 years later.
Many companies, such as 3M, create a culture of productive meetings. Others such as OneMonth, reduce meetings by having them only on certain days, and very few at that. While these strategies are helpful, there is still a gap in many companies as to how they hold truly effective meetings. Most meeting outlines don’t prepare for what you could call a different approach to great meetings:
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Meetings matter for many bosses. They create a framework and summarize actions for the staff (their new “to do list”) and then close the meeting. What should be a team building opportunity becomes a monologue of staff being told what they’re doing wrong or what they should be doing more of. This results in a one-sided drill-down that leaves staff burdened and further drives a divide between leadership and their people.
But do meetings matter for your people? Do they learn, get valued information, and feel as part of a team? Do they regret going to your meetings with the takeaway that nothing changes or it was a complete waste of their time?
Your employees count on you to value their time, and know that they matter to you. With that premise in mind, and yo get meetings to matter more to your people, consider these strategies to build your teams and culture:
- Talk with your people, not to or at them. Build two-way dialogues and meeting structures that allows everyone an opportunity to talk. Studies show that having conversations with your employees is far more effective than a lecturing style.
- Get their input ahead of time for agenda and hot topic items. Many times meetings are used to bring everyone up to speed on policies, new events, and other items that the managers’ feel need to be addressed. However, employees may have other pressing topics that need addressing that the leader does not notice. Get their input and commit to reviewing those items.
- Build connection and trust and commitment. If you fail to enhance the relationship you have with your team during a meeting, then you have squandered a great opportunity. Meetings, done right, can be a fantastic outlet for people to let their guard down and show their concerns. Building these connections takes setting your agenda aside and working towards the best interest of your people. Find genuine ways such as icebreakers, break times, and casual conversations to get to know, truly know, who your people are.
- Infuse missions, values, and cultures that shape the workplace. This focus should be the core of every meeting (and every day-to-day interaction) you facilitate. A meeting without your core mission to anchor is gives the leeway for drift of culture down the road. Shore up your values each meeting and work ways to repeat them throughout to ingrain them into your team’s cultural psyche.
- Structure the speaker(s) more intimately. Some of the best meetings and classrooms I’ve seen are where the presenters walk around the entire room and every aisle. They meet everyone close and engage in meaningful eye contact and dialogue. Arrange the room in such ways to allow (or even make) whoever is speaking roam or even be in the middle of the group and be accessible. This type of approach not only transcends physical barriers but also roles and positions and makes for more comfort and personal interaction.
- Develop ways for others to present, teach, debate, or train during the meeting. As a leader, you should make the meeting about your most precious resource – your people. In so doing, get them involved more and more in every aspect of planning, facilitating, and presenting topics or speaking. When your team feels that they are truly part of the meeting process, they will walk away with a greater satisfaction of the meeting’s usefulness and solicit their buy-in more readily.
Make your meetings matter the most to your people. An effective environment means an effective use of everyone’s time and effective results because of how you make the meeting matter to your people – by making it theirs.