Why Are Meetings so Important and How to Make them Effective and Fun

Premise:

Not a day goes by when I dont hear someone complain about yet another meeting that they need to attend and how it is such a waste of time, money and effort.

Yet, there is enough written about the way Alan Mulally, the ex-CEO of Ford, turned around the company in his stint as the CEO, primarily using a weekly cadence meeting with his entire leadership team , called The Business Plan Review. You can read more about this and how he ran these meetings here.

What he has shown is that meetings can be extremely productive for organisations and have the potential to even transform an organisation. So, if we think our meetings are not effective, it is the way we run these meetings that is the problem.

Meetings Are Reflections of the Culture

Also, I believe that the way we run our meetings is reflective of the culture of our organisation. If we think that our meetings are not effective, that reflects on the culture of our organisation. Ineffective meetings are the symptom of a much deeper cultural issues within an organisation. Just as meetings offer a peak into the functioning culture of an organisation, they also offer a way to transform that culture by transforming the way meetings are run.   

I recently read “Read this before our Next Meeting” written by Al Pittampalli. In the book, Al talks about 7 principles of Modern meetings: 

The Modern meeting

supports a decision that has already been made.

moves fast and ends on schedule.

limits the number of attendees.

rejects the unprepared.

produces committed action plans.

refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.

works on alongside a culture of brainstorming.

Issues with Meetings

In my opinion, there are two issues with meetings – They are boring and they lack accountability. 

Meetings are Boring:

Most meetings are boring because they follow the same pattern. There is no clear agenda or preparation behind the meeting. The responsibility of preparation rests with both the host and the guests of the meeting.

The host of the meeting, the one who calls for the meeting, is responsible for:

  1. The host should have a clearly defined purpose for the meeting, shared with all the participants.
  2. The host should prepare all the background information that is needed ahead of time and shared the same with his guests.
  3. The host is responsible for driving the meeting and achieving the result that he/she expected from the meeting.
  4. A meeting is the scheduled as a last resort. The host has to first explore if the purpose can be achieved either by an email discussion, an online poll, a survey, 1-1 meetings or a combination of these. As this is the last resort, this needs to work and it is the responsibility of the host to make this work.
  5. It is the responsibility of the host to ensure that only and all relevant people are participating in the meeting. 

If we are invited to attend a meeting, it is our responsibility to:

  1. Read all background material that has already been shared and come prepared based on the purpose of the meeting. We should not attend a meeting, if we are not prepared for it.
  2. If we don’t get all the background material for preparation, we should not attend the meeting.
  3. Be on time and be prepared. Be present in the meeting and offer our full support to the host in achieving the purpose for which the meeting was called for.

Meetings lack Accountability:

Any meeting that doesn’t enforce accountability on all the participants of the meeting is bound to be ineffective. It is the role of the host to ensure that everyone in the meeting is held accountable for their part in the meeting and the actions that come out of the meeting.

Most meetings are convened to

– either decide on something,

– discuss on a decision already made,

– debate about a specific situation or

– Assign roles and responsibilities

It is the role of the host to ensure that roles are defined and agreed upon before or at least at the start of the meeting.

Roles in a meeting – Scribe and a TaskMaster

We need a scribe (who makes notes) and a task master (who makes a note of all the action that someone has either volunteered to do, has been assigned to do or has to get done). Having the second role ensures that there is nothing that gets missed. It is then the role of the host to circulate these notes and the tasks to the relevant people and the role of the task master to ensure that everyone who has some action that they need to do know what it is and by when it is due.

Post Meeting follow-up

The role of the host doesn’t end with the meeting. It is the responsibility of the host to ensure that every deliverable and action that was committed in the meeting is actually completed in the time frame that was agreed upon. In case, this is not the case, it is the responsibility of the host to escalate this with the right people until the action is completed.

In conclusion:

As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our meetings are not only effective but also reflect the kind of culture we want in our teams.

If we want a culture of experimentation, our meetings need to reflect that. Click To Tweet

If we want a culture of accountability, our meetings need to reflect that. Click To Tweet

If we want a culture of fun and community, our meetings need to reflect that. Click To Tweet

Zetland magazine starts every team meeting with community singing. They even started their customer event with a song. In this blog post Stephanie Vozza, shares some examples of how teams are making their meetings interesting, effective and fun, all at the same time. 

As we can see, meetings are a great way to define the kind of culture we want to create in our organisation, while at the same time can serve as an effective way to move forward.

Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time or suck energy out of all the participants.  

So what do your meetings tell you about your culture? Click To Tweet

This post was inspired by a post on the David Guerin Blog.

Do share your thoughts and continue the discussion