One of the biggest complaints that I get from my executive coaching clients is that their week is filled up with meetings and they can get nothing done. This is generally true from front line managers, who often have to manage and do their own work, all the way to senior executives. I starting working with a global CEO after their Chief of Staff approached me and said that his calendar was booked for 6 months! Meetings are the primary activity that most leaders participate in, and yet there is very little effort by most organizations to make this primary communication tool effective or efficient.
One progressive client did approach me to discuss how they can be more effective in their meetings. Their organizational structure requires lots of cross functional teams and therefore the meetings can be difficult. I worked with them to develop a facilitation guide and a workshop that can be run to help their leaders to become better meeting managers. I wanted to share some of the learnings from the work.
If you do not know the outcome, then do not hold the meeting
Meetings can have numerous outcomes and a good facilitator will know exactly what they want to accomplish. The outcomes can be to make a decision, get feedback on an idea, problem solve or sharing information. A clear outcome makes it simple to plan the meeting, work out how you will use the space and what processes will be applied for the discussion.
A strong outcome will also allow potential participants to know if they should attend. Many meetings are ineffective from the start because the right people are not in attendance. If you look back at the invite that was sent it might have the project name but no actual outcome. Organizations can make their meetings more effective just by having the outcomes listed on the invite and therefore getting the right people in the room.
Think about the meeting holistically
Teams that work with me in enhancing their performance will hear me talk about the bigger picture and not just on the task. Whether we are talking about developing teams, or maximizing the impact of a meeting, there are always opportunities to be leveraged. While most meetings are focused on the task that needs to be done you also want to continue to work on the relationships between the team members, as well as getting buy-in to the project direction. This especially true for cross functional meetings where you have participants with different incentives, goals and information about the project.
The modern organization is more team based, cross-functional and uses meetings as their primary work method. Therefore organizations need to invest time to help their people be effective facilitators to create a more impactful event and therefore enhance the performance of the organization.