Changing the world, one meeting at a time

Until a few weeks ago, my husband (let’s just call him Mr. McCormick) had a standing appointment with boredom every Tuesday at 9am.

Seventeen people would gather around a conference room table taking turns sharing what was happening in their tiny sliver of the office. The meeting maker on the calendar (set on “repeat” for infinity) was for one hour. What a lie. Everyone knew that the meeting would REALLY last for 90 minutes every single week.

Does this sound familiar? Already see where we’re headed?

Beyond the wasted time, what Mr. McCormick – and everyone in the history of business- hated about these meetings was a lack of direction. Every rambling informational update included airing grievances and getting into the weeds with tiny details that didn’t matter. They left each week with A) zero problems solved and B) zero idea where to take the new information they had heard.

Good times.

I should add that this team is full of bright people, but like many of us they were stuck in a meeting rut. Until, that is, they experienced a miracle.

This miracle took the shape of a fearless new leader (we’ll call him Phil). After experiencing his first 60-minute team meeting, Phil said it would be the last of its kind. He then he laid new ground rules for updates:

  • Gatherings were limited to 15 minutes, with everyone standing the whole time (I bet your eyebrows are already shooting up in interest).
  • Each person had one minute to share his or her top three most important updates. No little details, no airing of grievances – just 60 seconds for their most important updates.
  • Questions would be taken offline unless you had a critical follow-up question that would benefit the entire group

You should have seen Mr. McCormick’s excitement when he came home that evening. He was already planning his top three agenda items for the next week and thinking about how to get them across effectively in one minute.

The new rules have worked for everyone in the office. The team communicates better internally and is focusing on what really matters each week. They even look forward to these meetings.

Phil’s rules follow several of our Decker meeting tips to the letter. All it takes are a few small changes for you to have the same effect at your next meeting:

1. Energize the experience

Standing team members are more likely to show energy and enthusiasm, and much less likely to ramble. Get up, move around and show some energy. If you can’t stand the entire time, use the whiteboard to brainstorm or get up and lead a conversation.

2. Force focus and efficiency

The average employee spends 31 hours of their time each month in unproductive meetings. That’s nearly four full workdays devoted solely to meetings. Cutting time forces people to ruthlessly prioritize their main points and information. Force efficiency and you will in turn give team members time to go do what you need them to do.

3. Make meetings matter

Meetings matter when they are less common. Phil’s standing meeting is now the only opportunity for the team to get together, and it’s not much time. When meetings matter, people are incentivized to engage one another and use the time wisely.

What are you doing to positively impact your team with regard to meetings? Have you used any of Phil’s ground rules with success?

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