I spend my days making it easy for teams to run effective meetings. That's the mission of the company I co-founded nearly a decade ago. It's work I find both fascinating and rewarding. You'd think I'd be pretty good at leading meetings by now. You'd be right. I am good... most of the time.
But, like all leaders, I have meetings that drop on my calendar without much time to prepare. No big deal, that's business. Besides, I'm the Meeting Maven. I like the opportunity created by most meetings.
Of course, good leadership is not who you are or how you feel. Good leadership is what you do.
That's why I was chastened to see this feedback after a recent call.
Very minor: asking me what questions i have; outlining explicitly what we need to cover in this meeting at beginning; agreeing on decisions and products we hope to have by end of meeting.
Ouch. This "very minor request" could be summed up as "please attempt to get the basics right."
One of my favorite quotes says that "Discipline is remembering what you want." I want good meetings. Life's too short to waste it in mediocre meetings. More than that, I really want to walk my talk.
I know what I want and when it comes to meetings, I know what to do. The problem is, I forget!
I get swept up in the conversation and then make all the bad assumptions studies show most leaders make. I forget to check in. I forget key steps. I don't forget often, but with 10 to 20 meetings each week, I forget often enough.
If discipline means remembering what you really want, then the key to discipline is to make it super easy to remember what you really want.
Business processes, rituals, and systems work to make it easy for everyone to remember what the business wants. I needed a system that makes it easier to remember how to run a good meeting, so I built a mnemonic into my calendar.
In the off chance that you're a real person who could use some help remembering (aka discipline) too, try this easy acronym. 3GPG: Greetings, Goals, Goods, Promises, Gratitude.
No matter what kind of meeting you're leading, it will get a better business result (and feel more enjoyable to the people involved) when you make sure to include these elements.
Take time at the beginning of every meeting to greet each person. Quick check-ins help everyone transition into the conversation, connect, and set a positive frame for the rest of the meeting.
Confirm the meeting goals and plan. For those calls that drop on your calendar, this means explicitly stating what you want to achieve and asking everyone else what they want (the step I missed when I got the anonymous tip). For a pre-planned meeting, it means confirming the goals and checking that your plan will still work.
My worst meetings start with this failure. Assuming a group is on the same page when they're not makes for a lousy meeting. Miss this up front, and it's hard to recover.
Next, it's time to get into the goods. Whatever's on the agenda, dive into it. After that, you can begin to wrap it up with...
What are your takeaways? What did you decide? Most importantly, what promises are you all making?
A meeting's business value comes from the action it inspires. Taking a few minutes to clarify exactly what you're promising to do by when makes an enormous difference in whether or not any action takes place.
I forget this step most often when I'm having a good time with people I trust. I think subconsciously, I'm reluctant to break the mood and risk sounding uptight by asking to review next steps.
But here's the deal. 20 meetings per week. If I don't have my promises written down, they don't exist. I won't remember them. Then we'll all feel bad. I'll be embarrassed when I miss things and frustrated when you miss things too.
It's worth a minor mood-switch to make sure you're getting a business return for your time - and safeguarding the future of your relationships - by speaking promises clearly now.
End with thank you. Thank everyone for the time they invested. Thank individuals for the unique ways they made that investment more valuable. A little appreciation goes a long way.
Good meetings are easy peasy with 3GPG.
I believe in another year or two, I won't need to see the 3GPG reminder when I meet. For now, though, it's the little bit of discipline I need to help me remember what I really want.