Many meetings limp to a start. The group sits waiting for people to straggle in late. Others want to keep chatting about "important" but unrelated topics: The dreaded "since I have you here" move that turns the group's agenda into a personal one. Still others keep texting and emailing while the leader struggles to get everyone focused.
That's a huge problem, since meetings that get off to a slow start rarely recover.
How can you make sure your meetings are as productive -- and focused -- as possible?
Take a page from Oprah Winfrey's playbook.
Brendon Burchard, the author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, says Oprah starts every meeting the same way: She says:
"What is our intention for this meeting? What's important? What matters?"
Why does she start a meeting that way?
High performers constantly seek clarity. They work hard to sift out distractions so they can not just focus, but continually re-focus, on what is important.
That's because clarity isn't something you get. Clarity is something you have to seek -- you only find clarity and focus when you actively search for it.
Keep in mind, the same holds true on a personal level. Successful people don't wait for an external trigger to start making changes. Successful people don't wait until New Year's, or until Monday, or until the first of the month -- they decide what changes they want to make and they get started.
As Brandon says, a simple approach to seeking personal clarity is to focus on four things:
- Self: How do you want to describe your ideal self?
- Skills: What skills do you want to develop and demonstrate?
- Social: How do you want to behave socially?
- Service: What service do you want to provide?
Asking those questions -- and answering those questions with action -- more often than other people do will definitely give you an edge.
The same is true with meetings. Asking the right questions is everything.
That's why no meeting agenda should include words like "information," "recap," " review," or "discussion." Productive meetings often have one-sentence agendas like, "Determine the product launch date" or "Select software developer for database redesign."
"Information"? Share it before the meeting. If you need to make a decision during a meeting, shouldn't the group have the information they need ahead of time? Send documents, reports, etc., to participants in advance. Holding a meeting to share information is a terrible intention: It's unproductive, wastes everyone's time, and it's lazy.
Great meetings result in decisions: What. Who. When.
Clear direction. Clear accountability.
All of which are much easier to get when you start a meeting the right way: By clearly stating intentions -- and then sticking to those intentions.
That's how Oprah gets things done.