“The answer to anything, always, is to call a meeting.”
That’s what a meeting-weary exec muttered to me in London last week. More and more, participants in my programs are identifying themselves as “professional meeting attendees” as they wind through back-to-back meetings all day long. My logical next question usually is, “When do you get your actual work done?” to which they typically reply that they do it after work, in the evening, or sometimes multitask on their laptops during their marathon get-togethers.
So.. slowly back away from the Outlook meeting maker, and let’s talk rationally about how we can free up our days.
Ill-managed meetings are time-sucks in our already packed work schedules. You know the ones I’m talking about – on the calendar every week at the same time, you all give an update, but there’s no real agenda or clear point? Of course organizations need to share information, but there are better solutions. Every time I have this discussion with my trainees, I’m thankful that Decker practices what it preaches, focusing on efficient and clear internal communications, instead of defaulting to the status quo.
We have tried many different forms of internal communication to narrow it down to a good system – we don’t have all the answers, and we’re always trying to get better, but here’s what we’ve done, and maybe this can help your organization’s internal communications, too. Please share your own ideas in the comments!
1. Make meetings a big deal
How? Don’t have them all the time. We have a big all-team meeting a few times a year, and our executive team puts thought in to the experience of the day. We usually are expected to come with answers to questions our leadership poses to us. Also, they send an agenda beforehand so we know what’s coming, and we know how to prepare. What else? No laptops or cell phones. There are breaks every hour or so to check in with email and messages.
Then, we have monthly management meetings. You’re expected to come with a prepared talk about what you’ve been doing, how the team can support you better, and what we all need to do going forward.
Lastly, smaller teams have lightning round Monday morning standing (actually standing) meetings. For example, our VP Sales pulls the account executives together for a quick round of priorities for the week. But that’s it. It doesn’t kill your morning.
Sure, other internal teams get together to collaborate on projects, but the meeting is used as a purposeful tool to effectively get something done, instead of an afternoon-waster. If you look through your calendar, are there any meetings you can cut or combine?
2. Share your updates with creativity and influence
Yes, we need to update our teams with information, but add something memorable and influential to yours. At Decker, instead of sitting down for regularly scheduled updates, we send update emails.
Our organization has a core team at our headquarters, and roving staff all over the country leading programs for our clients. To keep everyone up to date on what’s going on, our Program Leaders write a summary email to the team about the overall success of each training, any sales leads that have come in, and what we can do to continue a growing relationship with the client. But here’s the catch – we’re encouraged to make it interesting by sharing meaningful or humorous stories, sending photos for a visual element, and written feedback quotations from participants. Succinctness and new ideas are appreciated.
These anecdotal emails have become shining beacons in our inboxes because of how they bring us together around our successes and areas for growth. So, is there any way you could replicate this on your team? Of course, keep up with good email manners in the process.
3. Invest in an internal social media platform
A social media wall/forum/stream is an electronic version of the community cork board – great for the stuff you want to share with the team, but maybe not team email worthy. Could be a link to an interesting article, or a travel tip for a new city. We’ve tried a few online tools and ended up signing on with Salesforce Chatter to unite our in-headquarters office team with our traveling Program Leaders.
One thing to note as you move in to the world of 200ish characters or less: Manage your electronic personality as you use these tools. Sometimes, tone and intent can be lost in writing, so make sure you’re portraying yourself the way you want to when using the written form. Social media writing can quickly become very casual, so make sure you’re staying within the appropriate tone and culture of your organization.
Again, we don’t have all the answers, but these ideas have worked for us. We’re always looking to do better, so please share any of your own internal communication ideas with me in the comments. What have you done that has worked? What’s been efficient?