in Work

The best meetings…

My team knows this about me, but you dear internet user might not be as aware. So let’s just get it out of the way now.

I hate meetings.
Let me clarify. I like productivity. Meetings are often necessary and I’d prefer one long meeting to get everyone on the same page than seven or eight short meetings that sets a project backward.
In large organizations, I learned quickly there was no such thing as a meeting that went on too long. Whether it was the highest ranking person or the lowest person on the totem pole, it was pretty clear to me that people were not experienced in the art of running meetings.
I’ve been running meetings for a long time. I learned Robert’s Rules of Order in high school as a debater and have been everyone’s favorite meeting organizer since those days. Here’s the biggest reason I don’t like meetings and why I make sure I keep them short.
I respect people & their time.
 
If anyone ever asked me what’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in professional life, I’d say hands down it’s respect people’s time. I used to really enjoy meetings with mentors and folks of that ilk, because the joy of picking their brains can be really invigorating for someone just starting out. (Or any phase of your career, really.)
Except, I learned pretty fast that you can’t monopolize the time of people at the top because there is always a more pressing issue than the one you’re bringing to them. The military is good about teaching this lesson, but it has not translated well to the corporate world where leadership can often be too distant from the front lines.
One of the best team building tools I’ve exercised as a leader is the art of the short meeting. For whatever reason, telling people that I respect their time and that we won’t go more than 30 minutes always seems to build a kind of engagement that I’ve not seen other leaders get out of people.
Especially in cross-functional team meetings, it’s important to recognize that not everything on your agenda matters to everyone in the room and there are lots of ways to ensure communication to get people the information they need.  I’m obviously not talking about big issues and let’s face it — meetings are part of work. But there are volumes of books devoted to making meetings more productive, so this isn’t a topic out of left field.
1. Have an agenda
Nothing is worse than going to a meeting where we spend forty minutes talking about what everyone had for dinner, what shows they watched and so on.
2. Cover the relevant stuff and only the relevant stuff.
Yes, it’d be fun to talk about every random topic under the sun in the hopes that you’ll cover all of it. But unless you’re going away for a long time, it’s better to schedule a short meeting and cover the topics at hand first. People only have so much capacity, so get out of them what’s most critical.
3. If it’s gonna be long, be sure to schedule breaks. Otherwise, let everyone know ahead of time.
Nothing worse than the stand up meeting that turns into a 90 minute meeting. I let folks know ahead of time if we’re going to go the full hour. In the off-chance that it’s an all-day affair, I ensure there are ample breaks in the schedule.
These few ideas are standbys no matter where I go and lead to more engaged meetings and it starts with a simple word.
Respect.