Last week we talked about why so many founders and entrepreneurs find themselves hating meetings. This week, we will solve that problem, and I’m going to layout a simple process you can use to make your meetings more productive than ever!
1. When – Be consistent
Being consistent seems so elementary and even trivial, but it is quite a challenge in the whirlwind of business. But the truth is that your team needs to meet consistently for meetings to work, and you need to be there (for the whole meeting) consistently.
Here are a few tips on staying consistent.
Add it to your calendar with a reminder 15 minutes ahead of time.
Especially in the beginning, the meeting will feel like an interruption. Despite your best efforts, you may forget about it. Showing up late or not showing up at all will send a signal to your entire team that it’s not important. Adding it to your calendar with a notification will give you that extra reminder you need to get started on the right foot.
Reply, “Bring this to the meeting.”
This one is a lot of fun. When a team member emails you a question sometime during the week, rather than stopping what you’re doing to spend the next 15-30 minutes helping them, just respond, “Great question! Bring it up at our next leadership team meeting.” This business-magic will do wonders for your time and productivity!
One of two things will happen. Either they won’t want to wait that long, and they’ll figure it out on their own, or they will bring it to the meeting, and you can direct it to another team member who can answer it for them. After this happens a few times, they’ll skip the step of asking you and will either figure it out on their own or find someone else who can help them. And you’ll go about your day with fewer interruptions.
Schedule it early in the day.
It can be hard to prioritize a meeting over some urgent fire or pressing opportunity. The later your meeting is in the day, the more likely it is to feel the pressure to postpone or cancel or miss a meeting. Do it first thing, and when it’s over, you’ll still feel like you have the entire day ahead of you.
Keep it short.
Consistency is way more important than duration. If you’re worried about keeping it up, or if you don’t like the idea of wasting so much time, keep it short. If you get right down to business, you can get a lot done in just 30 or 45 minutes. Once you’re used to meeting consistently, you can consider lengthening the meeting if you think it’s necessary.
2. What – Follow an agenda
Stay with me on this one. You can keep this nimble by pre-defining the “phases” of a meeting rather than the “topics” of the meeting.
I recommend an agenda very similar to the Weekly Tactical meeting developed by Patrick Lencioni.
After each mission, Navy SEAL teams engage in an after-action review (AAR). You and your team are going to achieve SEAL-like effectiveness and efficiency by starting every meeting with a micro AAR. Here’s how you do it.
First, look at last week’s notes and make sure everyone did what they said they were going to do. If you are meeting and deciding but not doing, you are wasting a ton of time. By starting the meeting with accountability for action, you will ensure that your team and your meetings are biased toward action and effectiveness.
Quickly review your key metrics together. If you don’t already track key metrics, you will want to start right away. Keep it simple. Just three to five key metrics are all you need. Here are a few examples.
- Sales (dollars, accounts, recurring revenues)
- Production (units shipped, hours billed, story points completed, units completed)
- Profit (dollars or a percentage)
The idea is that you and your team can look at a “dashboard” and see what is working well and what isn’t. This helps keep first things first and provides a visible measurement of the effectiveness of the team. Keep your meetings short and effective by limiting discussion during this phase. Any issues that come up should be pushed to and prioritized in the next phase, the Issue Phase.
Next, write down a list of all the issues that need to be discussed, including any problems uncovered in the first two phases. Anyone can bring an issue. However, just because you list the issues doesn’t mean that you have to discuss them. Instead, once you’ve written down the full list of issues, take a moment to review the list. You’ll find the issues will likely fall into one to four categories.
- Reporting: Someone wants to tell everyone else what happened. Don’t waste meeting time on this; just have them send it in an email (or whatever communication channel you use).
- Sideline: A sideline issue can be dealt with by one or two team members without using the entire team’s time. Assign the issue to those one or two team members and follow-up at the start of the next meeting.
- Critical: A critical issue is one that is both important and urgent. These issues should make up the bulk of your discussion (once you’ve been meeting together consistently, you should find that you shift more toward important issues as there are less urgent fires to extinguish)
- Non-critical: You will have some issues that aren’t very important but may still need team input. Save these until the end of the meeting. If you can’t get to them, table them and bring them to the next meeting.
This phase will only take a couple of minutes, but your meetings will be meaningless without it. The clarity phase happens right at the end of the meeting, and all you need to do is make sure everyone understands what tasks and actions have been assigned to them. You’ll be surprised how many small issues you’ll catch with this quick check, and you’ll massively increase the amount of progress made outside of meetings in the process.
3. Who – Get the right people in the room
This one takes a little more time to get right. As you’re transitioning your company’s leadership to a team approach, you will want to make sure you have the right people in the room so that you can make the best possible decisions.
Here are a few pointers to help make finding the right people as easy as possible.
Look for all four leadership styles.
I see leaders all the time who surround themselves with other leaders who think and talk and act like they do. This can make meetings fun and even easy, but not very useful. You need a diversity of thought and perspective to come up with the best solutions. Fortunately, this isn’t a guessing process. There are four leadership styles you need on your team. They are the Visionary, the Operator, the Processor, and the Synergist. You can read more about this here [Who do you need on your team].Leaders often surround themselves with other leaders who think and talk and act like they do.This makes meetings fun and even easy, but not very useful.You need a diversity of thought and perspective to come up with the best… Click To Tweet
Don’t overvalue seniority.
I’ll admit this one is tough. It is natural to invite your most senior staff to serve as your most senior leaders. They’ve been with you the longest, they may even understand the business the best, but that doesn’t mean they are the ones to take you to the next level. You may end up having a few hard conversations at the beginning, but that is nowhere near as uncomfortable as trying to unwind bad decisions after they’ve already been made.
Limit the team to managers
When you have a “leader” who doesn’t have anyone on his or her team, it will likely create some awkward dynamics in meetings. They may limit their input because they don’t want to do extra work if their idea is approved. Their focus will be short-term and urgent, which is the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish with the team. They will relate to the business in a different way than your managers. They will likely take longer to execute their action items because they won’t have the opportunity to delegate like the other managers.
If you are looking to keep up your growth, you will need to make meetings work for you, and they can. If you follow the pointers I’ve laid out, you may even find yourself looking forward to your meeting because you’ll see how effective they can be and how much of your time you get back along the way.
If you’re interested in having more effective meetings, give me a call. You may also want to check out these incredible resources.