Most leaders universally get their folks together to discuss an issue that bothers them. The issue could be a result that’s not along the expected lines or something that’s impacting the result. Several hours of time, air-miles, hotel rooms, concierge services and so on are put to use to recognize what has happened and wonder about the future. Let’s examine if this is the best way!
Many a times, these meetings are not the best ways to deal with the issues that we encounter. A recent article in HBR https://hbr.org/2015/03/do-you-really-need-to-hold-that-meeting looked at this behaviour. At times, meetings could be a highly dysfunctional way of addressing a spot of bother. The participants either aren’t clear about the agenda or they don’t have a good idea about the expectations from them or they didn’t have adequate time to prepare for the meeting or the culture at the workplace could be to deliver impromptu or some participants love to speak in a few words which leads to focus on items which may not be as important as some others.
I was impressed about a practice that is followed at Amazon to hold meetings. The convener circulates an essay-like document, not a powerpoint slide deck with pictures and bullets points, well in advance. The meeting starts with each participant quietly reading the same document once again. They make notes of their recommendations and those are discussed to finalize the action plans.
We must meet only if the objective is clear for all the participants, the views and opinions of each participant are valuable to decide the future course of action and the topic is so strategic in nature that all the members of the team need to apply their minds in an iterative manner.
Several times, there are certain meetings which are like a ritual and over a period of time, the agenda gets either defocused or the conversation changes to a speech by a participant followed by some questions and advice from the leader. These essentially become just an update for the others and are relevant, if they care. In such situations, meetings can easily be replaced by collaborative tools where information can be shared easily. In case, the leader wants the team to come together to build team spirit, it can be a short huddle rather than the usual long meetings that the executives in large corporates get used to.
Setting the agenda of a meeting is one of the most critical aspects and then staying focused on the agenda is the other most critical aspect to make sure that the time is utilized in the most successful way. It is better to call off a meeting if the agenda is merely an update or review of action points agreed the last time and update of the future course of action. A face to face meeting is required only if some decisions are to be taken in consultation with one another. Else, save the time, energy, miles, meals and hotel rooms!