In the Digital Age where data is worshiped, it is all too tempting to focus on things that are easy to quantify. To that end, when it comes to meetings, it's all too easy to focus on making them as short as possible. The length of a meeting is easy to measure and chart and graph.
However, this pulls you away from focusing on making them effective. Bringing a little or a lot more discipline to your meeting game can greatly improve your productivity and performance for you and your team. It can give you a leg up in negotiations , reduce wasted time, and relieve a lot of stress and anxiety often associated with meetings.
1. Know thy purpose.
Mastering the art of meetings is integral to effective communication and productivity. The length of time required should not be your primary focus. Effectiveness should be front and center in your mind at all time. There are many reasons to have a meeting and it's important that you know why you're having one. Some great reasons include:
- Gather and connect as a team of humans and foster camaraderie.
- Institutionalize or disseminate important information to the team in full context (tone, pitch, body language, eye contact, the works).
- Solvin problems, identifying opportunities, brainstorming ideas and account for the implication of ideas throughout the business.
These are but some solid reasons to hold a meeting, and give it a professional effort.
2. If it's not worth writing down, it's not worth meeting over.
This is a critical metric. If you're not willing to put down your initial thoughts on paper and explore and edit them, you're probably setting yourself up to waste other people's time with a topic or agenda items that you could resolve on your own. This is why the meeting agenda is so important and powerful.
3. Meetings are started on time by you, at all times no matter what.
Make "no matter what" a mantra for you. It eliminates wiggle room and excuses, even the ones we tell ourselves. This is a golden rule of meetings. You may be the first and only person there at times, but this will help you be a more productive and effective leader. And if others don't show on time this gives you a degree of unspoken or unconscious leverage to command the room.
How do you make this happen, no matter what? You show up early no matter what.
Schedule a 15 minutes with yourself the day before your meeting to ensure you are properly prepared to arrive early. Ensure you and your attendees are deprived of the typical excuses, and can arrive at your destination 15 minutes early. Note: early arrival does not mean the parking lot, campus or building but the end destination where the meeting is to take place.
4. Remember to emphasize a clear stop time.
Any meeting that you schedule should have a definite start and stop time. You probably already know that but may fall victim to the habit of just saying the start time without declaring and reinforcing the stop time in advance. Generally, we're great at setting meeting dates and start times, but often neglect to mention a firm stop time. Without a firm stop time, meetings may meander and erode your schedule, patience, and energy which increases anxiety towards having meetings at all.
The meeting doesn't just start at two pm, it stops at two forty-five. You need to verbalize it. This means having it properly scheduled and sent to invitees and most importantly reinforced, face to face, discussing the meeting before it begins, and as it draws to a close. Communications is all about a consistent campaign of being on message- not a one time event. If you tell someone only once, you often present a weak boundary that is easy to cross. Be consistent, repetitive if necessary.
5. Phones off, face down in the center of table. First one to pick theirs up to glance at a notification buys the group drinks.
Just like at the movies, weddings, and funerals, the meeting is not a place for casual attention. To encourage focus, make this a drinking game. A round of drinks for five people can prove expensive, and knowing what that last notification was might not be worth it. And this little trick encourages that the act of plucking your phone up from the center of the table is akin to a walk of shame. It's all in good fun, to promote a culture of healthy boundaries and mutual respect.
6. Educate your team on your meeting standards.
Encouraging your team to at the very least get in the habit of typing their agendas will get them to focus their thoughts and create opportunities to make meetings more effective, if not shorter. If they want to meet with you, require that they follow these guidelines in their meetings as well. Mastering meetings will improve the performance of the team and productivity of the office.
Strengthening your meetings with this level of discipline will not only improve the quality of meetings, but also your and your team's attitude towards them. Enforcing the time and conducting boundaries around them will give you a greater toe hold to increase high performance throughout your company. These healthy boundaries and discipline breed autonomy, and enable greater delegation, all of which increase your capabilities as a team.