The consultant, Stan Sipes, once commented:
“The most common weakness I see in organizations is the lack of work that is done in a meeting.”
Today, more than ever, so little work is done in meetings because no one has done their homework to actually prepare for the meetings.
As a result, a meeting with the objective to discuss and make a decision morphs into a meeting that is 95% informational (getting everyone up to speed) and 5% decision-making (which usually becomes just a rubber stamp because we have run out of time and attention).
To make our internal meetings more effective, we need to insist that everyone do their homework.
- Send out the agenda and written materials far enough ahead of time so that everyone can read and digest the material.
- Ensure everyone reads the material.
This is essential, but not easy. Jeff Bezos at Amazon was so disgusted with the lack of preparation for most meetings that he insists that the first 10 minutes of meetings involves quiet reading of the material.
Customer and Other External Meetings
To make these meetings more effective, we need to insist that everyone on our team has done their homework.
- Send out an agenda and any written materials ahead of time and ensure that everyone on our team has understood the materials.
- Ensure that everyone on our team understands the objective of the meeting and that the team has outlined a strategy / proposed course of action to realize the objective (this is essential in negotiation meetings).
- Ensure that everyone has researched the people that we are meeting with (through Google, LinkedIn, conversations with colleagues, etc.) to ensure that we understand their perspective and hot buttons.
If we just follow these few simple guidelines, then meetings become about making the decision or coming to an agreement rather than just being informational.
As such, we will
- Be able to focus on and discuss the crucial subjects in their proper order and with the proper amount of time
- Have a more intelligent discussion of the issues as everyone has had a chance to cogitate and think through the issues
- Realize our objectives in every meeting
- Waste much less time in meetings
In short, as leaders, we need to mimic our parents and tell our teams to…
Go and do your homework!