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Your Clear Next Step Blog

Don't Invite a Dead Horse To Your Meetings

Don't Hold the Same Meeting Twice

Ugh, meetings, amiright? There is a not-so-insignificant percent of our population who absolutely abhor meetings--and usually with good reason. Meetings, rather, bad meetings, are notorious time and money wasters that trap teams away from their desk when they could actually be getting stuff done.

Wait a sec...isn't the purpose of a meeting to help us get stuff done? In theory, yes. But in practice, it has proven to be much easier said than done. One of the most common things we hear about what makes a meeting such a waste of time is that we have the exact same meetings, where we talk about the exact same things with the exact same people, over and over again.

Do you see "Dead Horse" on your list of invitees? Probably not. So, stop hashing and rehashing the same topics and decisions in your meetings.

In the spirit of making your business even better, we've got three tips to put an end to this vicious cycle. Ending every single meeting by implementing these three tips will ensure that action items and decisions don't get lost, and you are set up for success in your next meeting so you can talk about what's really important.

 

1. Recap Action Items, Due Dates, and Owners

startup-leader-drawing-flowchart-board-discussing-projectOne of the reasons meetings are ineffective is a lack of follow-through. When we're not doing what we said we would do, stuff doesn't get done, and then we have to repeat conversations in the next meeting that sound an awful lot like:

"We really should..."

"Hey, yeah, that's a great idea!"

"Cool, let's do it!"

A team member's lack of follow-through is almost never intentional. 9 times out of 10, we forget, or we didn't know we were supposed to do it in the first place because we didn't document it and/or don't know when it's expected to be done.

Get rid of the "don't knows" -- write it down, and quality check it at the end of the meeting. Does every action item have a due date and an owner? Have the team commit to their action items and bless the list at the end of the meeting.

 

2. Plan to Catch Up Absent Team Members

salle-reunion-affairesGetting up to speed after a meeting is great. Getting up to speed from the last meeting at the beginning of the next meeting is not.

In a perfect world, the people unable to attend the meeting would remember to get themselves clued in to what they've missed, but that's not always the case. Be proactive by making a plan and designating an attendee to fill in the absentees on any decisions or action items--this will be easy because you've got them documented from tip #1! In fact, you could be really crafty and make following up with folks who couldn't attend an action item on its own.

One more thought. The same person shouldn't always be responsible for filling others in on what they missed, though, so find a system or take turns so one person doesn't get stuck doing it all the time.

 

3. Update Group Norms

confident-young-team-leader-giving-presentation-group-young-colleagues-as-they-sit-grouped-by-flip-chart-officeMaybe your meetings don't stink because conversations or agenda items that repeat meeting after meeting. Maybe they stink because the same distractions and bad habits derail the conversation time and time again. Guess what? They're going to keep happening if there's no tool in place to prevent them, if we ignore the tool, or if the tool doesn't do what we need it to do. At the end of your meetings, do a quick retrospective focusing specifically on group norms. Ask:

  • Are our group norms all still true?
  • Do they still work?
  • Are we missing any?

What's that? You didn't use group norms in your meetings in the first place?! Therein just might be part of your problem...

Here are some group norms we like, but the possibilities are truly endless! Think about the habits and behaviors you see in your meetings (both good and bad) and agree to group norms that will help enforce or prevent them.

  • Electronics by exception (emergencies only)
  • One conversation at a time
  • Start/Stop on time
  • Take calls in the hall (and hurry back)
  • Document action items

Hopefully, these three tips start to make your meetings even better. Let us know how it goes!

Sinikka headshot 2017

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day.


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