- Know Your Desired Outcome - Every single meeting you lead or attend will be effective (or not) based on this simple key - Do we have clarity of purpose for this meeting? Based on this purpose - do we have a guide, an agenda, or a map that will lead us to the fulfillment of this purpose? If you are fuzzy in answering this question - postpone the meeting until there is clarity.
- Choose Your Optimum Format - Depending on the purpose of your meeting a second key is in choosing the right format or structure for achieving your meeting purpose. Patrick Lencioni in Death By Meeting provides a creative take on meeting types - If it is a daily check-in meeting think Headline News (5-10 minutes stand up) where we can cover what is up today / Ifit is a weekly tactical meeting think Sitcom or Drama (1/2 to 1 hour) where we deal with key short term issues / If it is a monthly strategic meeting think Movie (2-3 Hours) where bigger and more complex issues are wrestled with / If a quarterly off site meeting think Mini-Series (1-2 days) where longer term macro issues that impact your 1-3 year plan are wrestled with. Know the purpose of every meeting and carefully pick your format or structure to honor and then facilitate (make easy) that purpose.
- Show Us the Baby! - The main reason that over half of meetings are viewed as wasted time is due to a perceived lack of progress, follow through, and accomplishment. We meet, we talk, we argue, we brainstorm, we pontificate, and then we wrap up and no one leaves with a clear idea of “What’s Next.” The outcome of a great meeting is a baby. All meetings should be positive birthplaces - source points for action, energy, and momentum. As one leader said to an employee who incessantly went round and round on what he thought he could do, should do, or might do, his boss said, “Friend, please! Show me the baby - don’t tell me about the labor pains.” Most people, these days, attend endless meetings that feel like labor pains but there is never a baby. Make sure your meetings are giving birth to life giving process, action, and work in the world.
A GREAT RESOURCE: DEATH BY MEETING: A Leadership Fable about solving the most painful problem in business by Patrick Lencioni (c) 2004 Jossey-Bass Publishers
Terry Young is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose University, Calgary, AB, Canada