Lead a Killer Meeting, Not A Mind-Killing One Full of Meeting Boredom
Death by Meeting
Silvia was dying of meeting boredom. Her manager, Tom, was nice guy, but his bi-weekly Leadership Team meeting drained her energy and wasted her time. Too many speeches, no conclusions, nothing accomplished. What was the point? Sighing, she remembered how her previous boss, Melissa, had done this. Those meetings were worth attending…
The Right Frequency and Attendees
Melissa limited her full Leadership Team meetings to once per quarter, for routine business. Urgent matters were handled in smaller groups, including only those who were absolutely necessary. They updated the full team at the next quarterly session. Looking around Tom’s meeting, she counted 15 attendees, most of them as bored as she was. And really, every 2 weeks?
A Structured Agenda and Meeting Prep
Two weeks before the quarterly meeting, Melissa solicited topics and curated them with their sponsors. She issued the final agenda and any pre-reads one week in advance. Everyone had time to prepare, so they had robust discussions and made decisions.
Tom’s agenda was presented as a slide at the start of the meeting, and changed as they went along. Since no one knew what was coming, no one was prepared. They wasted valuable time explaining basic ideas and usually accomplished very little.
During the meeting, Melissa kept them on track and focused on the agenda topics. They ‘parked’ other items that came up for later discussion, using a flip chart. Everyone in the team felt comfortable walking over to the flip chart and writing down a topic, without interrupting the flow of the discussion. They always finished the agenda items, and often had time to deal with a couple of parked items, before the meeting ended.
By contrast, Tom ran his meetings like a stream-of-consciousness novel. They started new topics without finishing old ones, argued irrelevant points, or endlessly debated the solutions to problems outside their control. Most people were more confused coming out of the meeting than they were going in.
Rules of Conduct
Everyone knew the ground rules in Melissa’s meetings: Prepare thoroughly. Listen when others speak. Tell the ugly truth. Disagree respectfully. Work together to implement team decisions – no post-meeting ‘shark attacks’. Woe to the person who broke her meeting rules.
Listening to the conversation around her, Silvia heard 3 people speaking at once, about why Finance was allowed to travel when their team was not. Steve called Barbara’s idea stupid; Michelle told Steve keep his unhelpful comments to himself, and Tom just looked at his smartphone and let them continue. It sounded more like a schoolyard than a senior leadership team.
Minutes and follow up
Melissa’s assistant issued minutes within 3 days of the meeting, including decisions and actions. Each action had a responsible person and a due date.
Tom’s minutes usually came out so far after the meeting that everyone had forgotten the discussion. Even worse, if any actions were captured, they did not have owners or due dates. Silvia was surprised that they accomplished anything!
Stifling a yawn, Silvia thought ‘I never yawned in Melissa’s meetings. I felt energized, part of a team, proud of our accomplishments and clear about our next steps. If only Tom could run a meeting like that…’
Are you Melissa or A Tom?
Be honest…what kind of meeting do you run? If your meetings are like Tom’s, try Melissa’s approach and see the difference!