The business meeting.
At their worst, you are tempted to open your laptop and catch up on e-mail while pretending to take notes. Or dutifully track just how many times the CTO describes the company's "robust ecosystem" while he reads to you verbatim from a 52-slide power point presentation.
Most of us have attended a lot of bad meetings. To be fair, we've probably even run a few bad meetings ourselves. The bottom line is that meetings don't usually end up on top of the list of things we are thankful for every year.
The concept of the meeting itself isn't the problem, of course. It's how we run meetings that causes people to rebel against them.
Sometimes, though, a magic meeting fixer isn't needed at all. We just need to go back to the basics and do the fundamentals of meetings a little better. As my High School basketball coach used to say:
"Defense wins championships."
Well, that doesn't really have much to do with meetings, does it? What can I say, I'm already distracted about just how many helpings of stuffing I'm going to have this year.
Upon further reflection, maybe it was more about when my High School basketball coach used to say:
"You can't succeed at this game without doing the fundamentals first."
That seems better. We can't run good meetings without doing the fundamentals of a good meeting. It's easy to not do the basic when you think about just how fast business moves these days and just how many meetings we all seem to be in all the time. It's not like we always have a ton of time to prepare the way we'd like.
Here are three easy to implement "back to the basics" ways to make your meetings more effective. None of them require an advanced degree in anything, but maybe running a good meeting doesn't require that either.
1. Be clear on purpose and desired outcomes
Most of us can recall meetings where half way through the meeting, someone finally had the courage to ask (or not so courageously whisper to the person next to them):
"What are we doing here?"
That's because the purpose and desired outcomes were never clear.
You don't have to publish them days in advance, but simply and clearly articulating why we are here and what we are here to get done at the beginning of the meeting goes a long way towards getting people focused.
It also helps eliminate frustrating rabbit hole conversations from which you never seem to return or spinning around on topics because no one really understands where we are going.
It's easy to implement and comes with a big ROI.
2. Document key decisions and outputs
This is about as "back to basics" as you can get but doesn't happen as much as you might think.
It's not necessarily about a designated note taker, but it is simply about making sure that there is a record of the big decisions that were made and key outcomes of conversations.
When this isn't done, you often find yourself experiencing "The Groundhog's Day" effect where you somehow end up in the exact same meeting talking about the exact same things again.
For most of us, time is at a premium at work. Really effective documentation can help you not only have one effective meeting but reduce the need to have that same meeting multiple times.
3. Leave your laptops and cell phones at the door
One of the biggest challenges in meetings these days is that we often try to multi-task. You can certainly understand why. On any given day, we can be overwhelmed with work from having been in back to back to back meetings all day.
When else are we going to do our "real work"?
I worked with one company where literally every meeting participant attended the meetings with their laptops open so they could do other work while trying to participate in the meeting. The result was that people only heard and participated in select parts of the discussions and were checked out for others.
This created situations where decisions that were already made had to be made again simply because the people who were at the meeting weren't fully there and missed important things.
The key is to eliminate distractions. For most of us, that means our cell phones and our laptops (unless those are necessary for the purpose of the meeting).
So this Thanksgiving, maybe you can do something really out of the ordinary. You can be thankful for a meeting you have to attend, not because it gives you a chance to rest your sore legs from the half marathon you ran over the weekend to work off all of the mashed potatoes you ate but because it was actually really effective and a good use of time.
Now I'm going to go eat some turkey, let the Tryptophan kick in, fall into a nice turkey coma and dream about it.