It’s cool to complain about meetings. We’re swashbuckling entrepreneurs, and meetings can sometimes seem like a waste of time.  Most complaints center around “They’re unproductive, unplanned, uninspiring. Our people would be better served just getting on with things.“ 

And I would agree, bad meetings can be a huge drag on performance.

But tell me this. If you don’t meet regularly with your key people, how do you plan on staying on track with your commitments?  How are you going to find out the critical conversations in your company that you need to be paying attention to?  What’s the big hairy issue brewing in your company right now that’s coming up to derail you that you don’t even know about?

And don’t tell me what one CEO client recently said “Oh we created a new spreadsheet that will give us all the information we used to cover in our weekly production meeting, so we’re only going to meet every other week now” … The result was like going to the gym for newbies.  Every week became every other week.  Then they missed one week for Labor Day.  After that they just stopped meeting altogether and passively read the Weekly spreadsheet. 

Within a three month period, the CEO had torpedoed every bit of accountability, momentum and inspiration he’d spent the last two years building. Margins tumbled and it took us months to get the company back on track.  All because he forgot the value of regular focused meeting time with his key people.

Meetings are the bridge between vision and accomplishment.  Smart leaders use them to drive performance not slow it down.

Some new perspectives on how to use meetings more effectively…

An opportunity to remind you of what you said was important.

Careening full speed into your future, no matter how inspiring without getting regular reality checks is folly.  In our busy companies, we flat out forget sometimes what we said the game was and what’s important. Meetings slow things down for a moment in time so you can get a pulse on vision v. reality.  Then you can course correct, with better information and more engaged people.

Use meetings to drive accountability. 

In my work with clients, we can have wonderful conversations about new directions and new possibilities. These meetings can be wildly inspiring.  And … they almost never leave our time together without a list of commitments of what they’re going to DO and by when they will do it.

Think of meetings as a chance to hear what you don’t know.

As your company grows, your ability to be aware of all the intricate conversations shrinks. I can’t tell you how many times, with a well placed question I was able to learn something new about my own company.  When meetings are ran well, they draw people out.  You get to hear what people really think. But only if you’re asking the right questions in a safe and creative space. 

Standing meetings with a short, bullet point agenda.

Our weekly “commit” meeting on Monday’s at 9am lasted exactly 60 mins … we had all the branch managers on a conference call. They all got 10 minutes to report on results from last week v. planned, big wins, changes/issues in each branch that affected the other offices and a chance to publicly commit to their results for the coming week. They also got to request help from anyone on the team.  At 10am sharp, everyone was off the phone clear about what was going on at a company level, inspired by the success of their teammates, and ready to rock for the week.

Be responsible for running a great meeting 

Simple things like – beginning and ending on time, no matter what. Having an agenda for every meeting. What do you want all the attendees to do to be prepared BEFORE the meeting? Ground rules for how you want people to participate. Making sure everyone leaves with specific commitments … Be responsible. Get feedback, if your meetings suck, ask the attendees what would make them more powerful.  

If you don’t like fish for dinner, you don’t blame the fish.

Meetings are the medium, the way stations that connect action and reflection. As leaders, we need both.  Too much doing, you could be going down a bad road and get mugged before you know, it. Too much reflection, has you listless and underperforming.

Action is always and only what will move your performance.  Well ran meetings can assist you in the quality and timing of the actions you take.

By the way, my favorite response to “was it a good meeting?” is always … I’ll tell you in a week.