I’ve been blogging about how to reduce the time you spend in meetings and how to make the meetings that you need more productive. If your entire organization goes on a mission to eliminate many meetings and to improve the outcomes of meetings that you choose to conduct, you will make more money. You will be more efficient, more effective, and much happier.
Practice #4 is to “prepare aggressively.” If you have been clear about the purpose of the meeting and the outcomes that you intend to achieve, then people need to prepare in advance to make decisions and set action plans. A meeting is not the way to report. Reports and background information need to be circulated ahead of time, and there needs to be a clear expectation that meeting participants will review those things in advance. That’s not to say that you wouldn’t have a high-level or summary presentation at your meeting in order to start the discussion, but if participants need to make substantive decisions, insist that they come prepared.
Of course that means that materials need to be as lean as possible, distributed far enough in advance, and require minimal time to review and process. If at a meeting you want to review progress updates on a particular project or on your strategic objectives or key performance indicators, set a deadline by which those updates must be delivered to meeting participants. Cancel the meeting if those responsible for delivery do not meet deadlines. If all materials have been distributed appropriately ahead of time, be certain that meeting participants are prepared. Ask probing questions to test whether they have reviewed pertinent materials.
Some meetings drown in politeness. It is clear that key participants are unprepared, simply winging it until the meeting is over. You need to build a meeting culture in which peers will call each other out on lack of preparation and hold one another accountable.
Other meetings degenerate into arguments based on ignorance of prepared materials or an attempt to hide one’s lack of preparation. Who is in charge? That person or agenda committee needs to become ruthless in helping to enforce the rules of engagement.
Your company cannot afford for you to be either too polite or too combative. It needs leaders and participants who are skilled in reaching informed decisions in a collaborative manner and then carrying out those decisions. Be sure that your meetings support your company goals!
This is Blog Post #4 of a 10-post series devoted to “How to Get More Work Done in Meetings and Make More Money.” Stay tuned for the rest of the series. I welcome your comments and suggestions–how do you make meetings work?
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