Preface: If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’ Quote: Dave Barry
Achieving Elite Business Meeting Traction
Credit: Donald J. Sauder, CPA, CVA
A great business meeting for countless entrepreneurs is too often considered worse than say a bad day hiking. Why? In this blog series, we’ll discuss the problems of business meetings, and provide tools to solve effectively that problem with an understanding of the key objectives and purposes of business meetings.
Many entrepreneurs are rarely overly experienced in business operations and therefore do not thoroughly understanding the purpose and effective structure of business meetings. This results in a typical unappreciated and misunderstood hour or two of the day that detracts from other business tasks they (or team members) excel in, e.g. fieldwork or sales.
“Effective business meetings have 1) an objective; 2) they are an efficient and a wisely invested use of participant’s time; and 3) the participants agree that the meeting was sensible, and worthwhile.”
“I just wasted an hour!” “What progress was gained?” We have entirely too many (meetings)!” “We always talk about the same problems!” “(s)he always dominates the conversation!” “Did you see him/her on his laptop answering emails?” Once the participant complaints start about business meetings, what is the (re)solution?
Effective business meetings have 1) an objective; 2) they are an efficient and a wisely invested use of participant’s time; and 3) the participants agree that the meeting was sensible, and worthwhile. If the meeting objective is met with proper preparation and an efficient process, then the participants agree that it was worthwhile, e.g. your meeting was a success. They (meetings) should all be like that — right?
A non-business example of a successful meeting: attending church every Sunday. It is for a 1) specific objective, 2) time wisely invested, and 3) participants for the most part agree it was sensible and worthwhile. The board was successful!
“If you suggest great coffee and donuts will make up for uncomfortable chairs, and a boring or lengthy meeting discussion, you’re probably right.”
START ON TIME. END ON TIME.
Nothing can drain the energy from a room quite like waiting for the person in charge to show up. Why do so many in positions of power fall into the bad habit of being late for meetings? Is it just that they’re so busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone waiting for them, a reminder that their time is somehow more valuable than everyone else’s?
Time is money, of course, and all that sitting around and trying to guess when the boss may arrive is a waste of a precious resource. When establishing the informal rules of an organization, employees take their cues from the person in the corner office. If that person wants meetings to start on time, meetings will start on time.
Terry Lundgren, the chairman of Macy’s, has never hesitated to enforce a strict policy of on-time meetings. “If the meeting is at 8, you’re not here at 8:01, you’re here at 8, because the meeting’s going to start at 8,” he said. “Busy people that can’t get off the last phone call to get there, [need to] discipline themselves to be there on time.”
Just as important as starting on time is ending on time. A definitive end time will help ensure that you accomplish what’s on your agenda and get people back to their work promptly. “I like to have an agenda that we think through,” Adam Bryant has conducted hundreds of interviews with C.E.O.s about leadership for the Corner Office series for the NY Times.
If you suggest great coffee and donuts will make up for uncomfortable chairs, and a boring or lengthy meeting discussion, you’re probably right. But was the objective of the meeting effectively achieved? Will (your) business develop and flourish further because of the business meeting(s)?
One thing’s for sure. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting”. Quote from Steve Covey. First, you need to realign the meeting roster; this is the approach to plans and duties for meetings.
Start your business meetings with Good News! Talk about what’s great; e.g. new customers, YoY sales volume increases, new employee(s), plans for future, promotions, employee anniversaries since hiring, the holiday banquet or summer picnic, goals successfully completed since prior meetings, etc.
But before you start the meeting, you need an agenda. If your business meeting leader doesn’t prepare an agenda, offer to prepare or help them with that. Step up to plate and take the initiative to work towards elite business meetings. If you are the meeting leader, make sure your agenda is prepared, and distributed at least 30 minutes before the meeting.
If your business meetings are 50%+ communication and passing along information about departments, projects, or business plans and goals, do you really need the meeting?
Five minutes of an hour business meeting communicating information to the group isn’t a real problem. But 30 minutes of an hour-long business meeting, would more effectively be managed with many teams from say an email to the entire group sharing the necessary information and communications on the business. Then a follow-up meeting that involves successful collaboration and insightful Q&A on the information from the email.
To be continued….