I saw Patrick Lencioni in November last year in London and one thing really struck home with me. He calls is “Death by Meetings“. It’s the concept of bad meetings. We have all been in departmental or team meetings where you come away feeling that it was a waste of time, or it could have been and should have been a lot shorter. Meetings where the actual issues in the organisation are not addressed, or are simply touched upon and glazed over as too many things are being discussed at once.
In my previous life in banking, we used to have these meetings all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the concept behind having meetings, especially when discussing financial matters, but all too often the people holding and attending the meetings missed the bigger picture. Rather than contribute, people would rather sit there in silence and think of how much paperwork they had to do when they got back to their desk, or how many emails they would have. These are the same people who make up the team, bring in income and organise and contribute to the effectiveness of your business. Everyone who attended the meetings had something of value to add to the conversation, but few actually sounded their thoughts.
Patrick suggested that what is actually needed, if you can believe it, is more meetings! Smaller, more in-depth meetings where people don’t waste their time and feel like they have actually got something out of it. Everyone should come prepared for what he calls the lightning round in which everyone chips in with what they need to talk about then look at the overall goal you are working towards as a business and “traffic light” the objectives red, yellow or green. If the objective is green then you’re pretty much on target, but if the objective is red, then more focus and attention is needed to address this.
Another point he made is that people come into a meeting with an agenda related to their department. The Marketing guy wants to talk about advertising and strategies with respect to his requirements and so will, in some cases, tend to switch off when the subject moves onto credit control for example. Sometimes, the best ideas come from those who are not directly related to the issue, or don’t have a personal attachment to the subject. It’s the age old idea of discussing your issues with someone unrelated to the topic, be it a friend, a partner or a work colleague. When you have a problem, your mind creates/formulates a plan of action to solve it and most people tend to follow that train of thought and ignore other possibilities. Having someone unrelated or uneducated on the problem can often add a simple yet prudent alternative approach to the problem. So as a leader, always encourage meeting attendees to add their 2 pence worth, even if it’s “not on their agenda”. At the very least, you will get a more cohesive and engaging team.
So the next time you arrange a meeting, or are attending one, try to go with a clear unbiased mind-set and don’t be afraid to get straight down to the point.