The average executive will spend upwards of 16 hours a week in meetings. The average meeting lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. In most meetings, people are talking about what they need to be doing when they are NOT in the dang meeting. At the next meeting, they talk about what they did not get done from the last meeting. This can be both a frustrating and fruitless way to spend your time as a leader within an organization. Today, I am going to give you two quick tips that will change your life when it comes to meetings. Neither of these tips is rocket science. They are simple, but not always easy. The struggle is that I have seen hundreds of executives lead meetings without getting the results they desire. So, let's dive in.
Tip #1: Don't meet unless you have an agenda for the meeting. Even a standup meeting has the agenda of allowing each person up to 60 seconds to say what they have going on for the day. The agenda keeps things on track and has a place for "new business" or "other business." When we simply open things up with "what do you guys have for the day" or some other extremely open-ended phrase, we end up doing a problem-solving, strategy, information, town-hall, follow-up meeting, which isn't really a thing. Build an agenda and follow the agenda. When someone tries to throw their own agenda into the middle of your meeting, let them know that they can meet with the relevant person on that and present it to you as an agenda item for the next meeting. Don't meet without an agenda.
Tip #2: Never make decisions in a meeting without assigning the who, what, when, and measurement of the action items. I would recommend a simple worksheet, or excel spreadsheet be built during the meeting in order to send quick follow up emails to people on what each person said they were going to do, by when, and with what measured result. I would also recommend that you focus on assigning things, or portions of things, that can and will be completed before the next meeting. "When you get a chance" or "ASAP" are unacceptable deadlines. Nobody knows when they are and they generally lead tot misunderstandings. Put a specific deadline on the "when" portion of this. On the measurement, make sure it is clear what is expected in the outcome of the action. The more clear you are in your communication, the less you have to repeat yourself.
If you will follow these two tips for the next several meetings you have, you will begin to feel in control of your meetings and will regain quite a bit of the time lost from lack of clarity.
Only meet on purpose!