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Oct 23, 201812:42 PMOpen Mic

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5 ways high-performance organizations make meetings effective

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Every organization has to figure out how to make meetings productive. It’s a complex challenge. To be effective, each meeting needs to engage the individual talents of the people involved, work to achieve the organization’s specific goals for the moment, and do so in a way that’s both culturally relevant and contextually sensitive to the world around it. Not an easy feat.

It can be tempting to shy away from the task. Instead of embracing this complexity, many leaders fall back on simple blanket rules that no one really follows — like the leader that declared all meetings in the company could last no more than 20 minutes. Some delegate responsibility for success to others, even though they themselves are the most frequent meeting attendees. Many leaders claim that meetings are a waste of time, and therefore not worth the effort it would take for the organization to make them work well.

These are common traps that keep an organization locked in a cycle of underperforming meetings and endemic mediocrity.

Here are five ways high-performing organizations avoid that fate:

1. Set clear expectations for all meetings.

Meeting norms, ground rules, guidelines — these set the foundation for building an effective meeting habit. They often include things like use of an agenda and keeping meetings on time. Whatever your rules, the leadership team must follow them. The way the leadership group meets sets the real standard everyone else follows.

2. Document and share meeting results.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) compels people to attend meetings they shouldn't. Organizers don’t want to leave people out, so they invite everyone who might possibly want to weigh in. Having irrelevant people in the room de-energizes the conversation and disrupts productivity.

Documented meeting results are the fastest and easiest way to combat meeting FOMO. Before the meeting, document the meeting purpose and desired outcomes clearly. Then, send out written meeting results afterwards. When people can see in advance what a meeting is for, then see afterwards what happened, they can decide whether they need to attend. This keeps meetings more focused, and it keeps everyone more productive.

3. Define “The Way” to meet for all core processes.

There are 16 different types of business meetings, and each has a purpose. A regular team meeting is good for confirming progress and identifying problems, but it’s a lousy place to make a big decision. Big decisions demand a dedicated decision-making meeting. Similarly, the initial meeting with a prospective client (or funder) should look very different from the meeting where you ink the deal. Each of these pivotal meetings can be optimized to drive the results your company needs.

High-performance organizations know the type of meetings they need to run and how to run each one well. Each meeting gets a name and becomes “the way” that kind of work gets done. For example, the team's check-in meeting becomes “the huddle.” The meeting to impress prospective clients early in the sales cycle becomes a “services briefing.” Anything called simply a “meeting” isn't specific enough.

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