The rambling tangents. The awkward questions. The sense of getting nothing accomplished. Sound like a meeting you've had recently?
The truth is, running a more effective meeting is pretty simple: You just have to be really focused. What do you want to get out of the meeting? And what are you trying to say? Once you know what's on your agenda, the rest is easy.
Here's what I've learned through running team meetings at my company, LearnVest:
All our meetings have structure. All of them. Typically, HR will start with any critical updates and include team birthdays and anniversaries. Then they'll do what we call an "employee spotlight," in which we highlight any staffer's achievements. From there, one of our financial experts will provide a hacker tip for how to improve your finances since we are a personal finance company, after all. Finally, I go over the most timely and important updates, so we're achieving the purpose of the meeting.
Find the right cadence.
We hold an all-hands meeting every two weeks and I do a "State of the Union" address every one to three months. That may not work for your start-up, but it’s certainly worked for us. Over the years, I found that having meetings once a week was too much--we didn’t have enough updates worth stopping the whole team for--but having the meetings once a month wasn't frequent enough to cover all the changes. Every month to three months is ideal for going over larger plans.
Every CEO is different, but I want to run an organization where my people feel like they know what's going on. It's just my attitude and style, and as a CEO I can tell when there's less tension because the communication is strong on our team. So I use team meetings to make sure information is flowing throughout the organization. For example, sometimes we have our Certified Financial Planners tell us about our customers so we have a better sense of how they're responding to our work.
Make it actionable.
Communication tends to break down as your company gets bigger, so stopping everyone for a meeting can feel like ripping the wheels off the bus. When I'm planning a meeting, I'll think about what's going to make it really valuable. At one point, we elicited feedback via Survey Monkey so we could tailor the meetings to what people wanted. As it turned out, they wanted to know about new hires and what else was happening around the office--even construction plans!
Outsource the small stuff.
I let HR take care of birthdays, anniversaries, and all the fun stuff like $5 awards for great work. This allows me to keep it all business and focus on delivering actionable insights on what goals we're driving towards. I've found that keeping a running lists of things I overhear in the office reminds me of all the points I want to hit in a meeting.