Blog

MEETINGS: DO THEM RIGHT OR NOT AT ALL!

With the advent of email, companies added "meeting mania" to their corporate cultures. Few business owners stopped to think about the purpose of removing employees from their work and sitting them around a table for an hour (or more), losing valuable and easily monetized time. Rather, work needed to get done and managers insisted on gathering people around a large table to communicate the requirements, expectations, and in some cases, threat.

I ran across a cartoon the other day, probably the impetus to write this article.

I laughed and put it aside. A couple of hours later, I began to think how relevant the piece was to my work. After all, my company's mission, in part, is to transform organizations and their people.

The ping of a meeting invitation is not what it used to be. In fact, there were no “pings” when I started my professional career. Managers and executives would instruct their secretaries to call a meeting, which was done using a telephone.

Email changed things. A lot. No more phone invitations, and – Wow! You could reach people instantly. Electronic documents were sent like bolts of lightning, as were expectations for “review and comment” in preparation for upcoming meetings. Technology raced ahead while most of us slogged through technical guides, hoping to successfully upgrade our software or hardware.

With Cheetah-like speed, companies leaped toward first-to-market status with their state-of-the-art products or cutting-edge services, adding “meeting mania” to their corporate cultures. Few business owners stopped to think about the purpose of removing employees from their work and sitting them around a table for an hour (or more), losing valuable and easily monetized time. Rather, work needed to get done and managers insisted on gathering people around a large table to communicate the requirements, expectations, and in some cases, threats.

I recall days of back-to-back meetings, leaving me little time to do the job I was hired to do. Middle managers experience this pressure more than any other band on an organizational chart. In the management courses I develop and facilitate, I use a graphic that demonstrates the pull middle managers experience in this regard; the reaction in the faces of participants resolutely underscores my point.

Don't get me wrong, communicating project, initiative, or scope of work status is critical to their success. But in a digital age, it is a waste of time to do it around a conference table – we now have tools designed to provide information or access to it (Dropbox, SharePoint, Google Suite, etc.). Status, then, can be provided and accessed 24/7/365.

Still, meetings are necessary for team and goal alignment. They are also necessary for what I believe leads to superior results: Opportunities for Innovation AND Lessons in Failure. I call these “Consultative Meetings” where participants are encouraged to talk frankly, listen intently, and provide meaningful feedback. Strategies for facilitating consultative meetings (CMs) include:

  1. Create a process for providing and accessing statuses prior to implementing a CM framework. This will minimize the tendency for employees to fall back on the “here's what I've done this week” habit.

  2. Schedule enough time to discuss the two elements of CMs: Opportunities for Innovation and Lessons in Failure.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR INNOVATION

  1. Open the meeting with the question, “what worked last week?” Here, you can follow with the question, "why?" Provide categories to help start the conversation, like:

  • Goal attainment (project specific or general operational/administrative)

  • Relationship-building

  • Increased technical knowledge (hard skills) and application

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ) growth and soft skill attainment

  1. Ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak. Even if Joe believes he didn't accomplish anything, encourage dialog, helping him discover at least one example.

  2. Ask how each participant might use a technique or tool presented by another. Then, ask if there are improvements to any the techniques or tools presented, creating a culture of innovation, excellence, continuous improvement, and best practices.

LESSONS IN FAILURE

  1. Open this segment of the meeting with the question, “what didn't work last week?” Resist the urge to follow with, “why” in this case. It may shut the conversation down because most people don't think of failure as a catalyst for growth. When you foster a culture of open and honest dialog, you will be surprised how openly people discuss their failures and why they may have occurred. Then, they begin to see failure a different way.

  2. Develop a checklist to help get this conversation going. In the beginning, it won't be as clear as the one noted above. You might consider:

  • Missed deadlines

  • Lack of support, or other administrative challenges

  • Scheduling conflicts

  • Team conflicts

  1. Employ your leadership. Because this is a new format, people may use this segment as an opportunity to point a finger (perhaps at you!) and otherwise deflect accountability. Be patient – under your leadership, they will refrain from playing the blame game and instead really dig in to uncover the root cause of their failure(s).

  2. Open the conversation up to suggestions for failure mitigation. Choose a couple of examples presented and ask how others might have handled the situation. Again – and I can't stress this enough – people will initially make it someone else's problem or fault. Ask the question, “understanding that Cindy may have played a role in missing the deadline, what could you have done differently to make sure the work was completed on time?”

  3. Observe the conversation. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know your people, their strengths, weaknesses, fears, and frustrations. This is where the magic happens; where people take risks, learn to trust their teams (and you!), and ignite their passion for what they do, all of which leads to increased performance and job satisfaction. Adding to the list above, you will have cultivated a culture of trust, transparency, and accountability.

If you don't believe me, survey your people and see if they would appreciate being asked to think, innovate, and be themselves at your next meeting. I'll hedge a bet and say of course they would!


Original publication: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/meetings-do-right-all-megan-reyes/

About the Author: Megan Reyes, President & CEO of ROTOR Consulting, LLC, provides leadership development and soft skills/EQ training. In addition, she works with businesses to help boost their operational and organizational performance through tailored strategic planning and development programs.

Contributors

Contributors