Stop Having M%#@ings



If your company has meetings that are m@#%ings, then this article is for you.


While there are exceptions, most people want to be productive with their time and gain value from interaction and connection with others.


Meetings, if done right, can fulfill those goals.


You can start actually looking forward to meetings because you are either better for attending them and/or have heightened clarity on direction and activity than you did before the meeting.


First – 2 M@#%ings To Stop Having Immediately


Status update and info-sharing meetings are not only a waste of time, but they are expensive. Do a quick experiment and calculate the hourly rate of every person that attends one of those meetings during just 1 day of work.


You'll be astonished at the actual cost.


Status and info can be shared on an intra-net or shared project folder or chat tool with team or group functionality.


Team members can share updates at a time that works for them or even at an established time by the team to share updates in the appropriate place or platform.


These meetings break the #1 rule of all meetings: don't ever meet to discuss, meet to decide!


But what about "all-hands" meetings? Yeah those fit nicely in the info-sharing and status update meetings group – at least when done poorly.


All hands meetings can, and should be, team and energy building experiences. No one likes to be talked at or listen to someone pontificate about how awesome they are or some specific aspect of the company that only involves 20% of those listening.


But more on all hands meetings later...


Do a quick assessment of the meetings within your company and start whittling out the status and info update meetings. Put systems or rules of engagement in place for how status and info can be shared across teams without having to meet face to face or draft a lengthy email no one will read.



Second – Critical Meetings No Company Can Do Without


Here's the situation: time is wasted and productivity, morale and direction are not enhanced during m@#%ings.


What are specific things that create this situation?


  • M@#%ings are not well planned or run

  • M@#%ings have no established rules of engagement

  • M@#%ings easily get off track and dialogue dives into the weeds too often

  • People leave m@#%ings without action items or good direction

  • Follow up for action items/to do's from previous m@#%ings is poor and undocumented - setting up the next m@#%ing to be less effective and an additional time waste.

So while meetings are important, they are most often unproductive.


While every company has a different operational model requiring unique times and reasons for meetings, there are fundamental principles or rules of conduct that apply to all meetings.


Following the principles will help ensure your meetings are purposeful, productive and not painful to endure. (cue FB searching, drowsiness, and mental checking out)


We'll quickly go over 6 meeting types and the principles involved in making them world-class "hoorah" type meetings.


State of The Company (STC) Meetings

Just like the President does a "State of The Union", every company should regularly educate its people on the state of the company.


This meeting is not widely used in small to mid-sized companies and the rationale is that you engage with most people in the company every day, including the execs, so the assumption is the people have a "pretty good idea" of what's going on.


The truth is most employees have lots of questions and are curious about "what's really going on", where the company is headed, and how it's doing.


An SOC meeting has 3 main goals: create unity and shared purpose, celebrate teams and people, have regular direct interaction with company execs.


Most business owners shy away from being open about the company's financials and direction. But just talking about processes and customer service issues doesn't create unity and shared purpose.


Company execs need to be clear about "the state of the company" and articulate direction, vision, progress towards goals, financial health and be clear about how everyone benefits from nailing it.


Dedicating some time for Q&A about anything in the company is a hugely impactful way to help employees feel connected and heard.


Give time for each department or team to celebrate wins.


This is not the time for departments to talk about process improvement or challenges. They should meet offline at a different time and for a specific well defined reason.


A solid SOC strategy is to meet with the whole company at least quarterly or monthly if possible.


Keep your people locked in to your goals and direction and celebrate them often!



Decide & Act Meetings

This is the most common type of meeting that is most commonly done wrong. (in fact this meeting is what usually devolves into a status update or info sharing meeting)


To do this right make sure the following are nailed down:

  1. Make sure everyone attending the meeting has sufficient background information PRIOR TO THE MEETING so they can come informed and ready to engage.

  2. Make sure the people who can actually make the decision will be in attendance.

  3. If possible, identify only 1 person who will make the decision. This cannot always be done and the culture of the company is critical to how this plays out. But if possible be clear on who will actually make the call when it's all said and done.

  4. Make sure someone is taking notes and identifies the specific action items and who owns them.

  5. If necessary set the time for the next meeting where more decisions and actions items will need to be clarified.

  6. Set due dates and follow-up schedules for all action items.

The wrong way to do these meetings is to re-hash everything you've already beat to death (which means you didn't take notes and disseminate them) or to hold the meeting before people have enough appropriate information and have had sufficient time to consume it.


Strategy Meetings

Strategy meetings typically are the longest type of meeting. While there are times where this is necessary (like semi-annual off-site corporate strategy retreats) it can be avoided by triaging the most important elements of the strategy and taking them on one at a time.


Then bring them together in one strategy meeting to complete the whole.


Since strategy meetings are a broader scale Decide & Act meeting the basic rules of running a strategy meeting are similar to the Decide & Act meeting.


Make sure people have enough info in advance to come prepared to be productive and contribute.


Be clear about the specific goal of each strategy session, take notes and disseminate the notes after the meeting.


It also helps to have snacks, water, and break times throughout to keep the mind fresh.


Brainstormers

A brainstorm meeting/session has only 1 purpose: solve a problem.


There is a wealth of information about how to run a good brainstormer but that's content for another article.


But the most important rules for a brainstormer are these:

  • Make sure you have different perspective represented to provide diversity and enable creative thinking

  • Put someone in charge of the brainstormer - this person is not the decision maker but the facilitator to help the group move forward.

  • Utilize as many visual elements as possible so people can "see" where things are going and quickly capture new ideas. (whiteboards, sticky notes, butcher paper, and windows are good)

  • Make sure people feel safe to share opinions. Fear of reprisal or condescension about an idea is the #1 killer of brainstorms and group creativity.


Debrief Meetings

Debrief is a solid life principle. Since each person's perception of their experience is their reality, it's important to dialogue the experiences of others and seek to understand their perspective.


These meetings or dialogues are not about winning or proving points. They are about empathy, compassion and improvement.


The number one rule in these meetings is safety and trust. Establish some rules of conduct about how to debrief experiences.


Each party to the meeting needs to come with a true desire to be candid and truthful while being sensitive to the experiences of others AND seek for ways to turn negatives into positives.


Own any mistakes or dropped balls and then make AND KEEP commitments to improve.



Final Thoughts

Meetings are a critical part of every company's health and success.


Take some time and assess the status of your meeting architecture and effectiveness.


Identify m@$%ings and end them or turn them into hoorah meetings.


Create environments where you and your people can be productive, fulfilled, heard, excited and unified towards the company goals and direction.