Looking forward to your next meeting? In many cases, the answer to that question is “nope.” Many meetings have been viewed as at worst – time-sucking obligations, mind-numbing information dumps, frustrating rehashes and/or contentious public forums of off-track topics, or at best dull and uninspiring. Holding meetings in an online platform has only amplified those negative views. So, how do you make meetings matter?
How do you avoid the most common pitfalls of meetings? Let’s tackle each, one at a time.
Pitfall #1: The Time Suck or “my time could have been spent better or this could have been done in an email.”
Solution: Planning, planning and more planning. Determine what the purpose of the meeting is, who needs to attend it and what is the best format or process to use. Meetings that are efficient in design start with an agenda based on efficient and proven processes like Situation Appraisal, keep discussions focused on the business at hand and are driven by powerful questions that are designed to gather information and perspectives.
Pitfall #2: The unproductive meeting or “didn’t we talk about this last week? Month? Year?”
Solution: Build accountability and tracking into your action plan. When you record each issue and the action you need to take to address it, you also need to determine “by whom? And by when?” Including a responsible name next to each action and a due date keeps people accountable and makes supervision or “checkups” or “report ins” both automatic and expected.
Pitfall #3 Conflict or “we’re going to need a bigger room”
Solution: When you know you are stepping into a meeting where the issues being addressed are liable to be emotional, plan ahead to ensure that situation will be addressed in a transparent, collaborative manner. Frame the discussion in a way that reflects an unbiased approach. Listen and record input to build a shared understanding of the issues and keep the discussion from devolving by using a clearly delineated and understood process. In Paul Axtell’s book Meeting Matters, he outlines the 4 C’s of effective meetings: Clarity, Candor, Commitment, and Completion. We might also add collaboration and conversation driven by a predetermined set of powerful questions.
Pitfall #4 Poor Communication or “did you hear what happened at the meeting last night? I saw on Facebook that….”
People have their own perceptions, hidden agendas, interpretations, self-image, values, priorities, experience which can determine both what they say and what they hear. Make it part of your plan to clearly communicate about decisions that are made. Determine who needs to know what, in what sequence and time frame. Include clear rationale for why certain actions will be taken. Nothing erodes trust and confidence quicker than hearing about the new policy that directly affects you from the kids or reading it on social media.
Plan for success
The key to meetings that matter is planning every step from determining the purpose of the meeting to communicating the results using a clear and transparent process that allows you to get the best thinking from all involved. Taking the time to think through the entire meeting process will help you gain the trust and understanding that you need to get the commitment for success.