How to Optimise the Meetings You Need (and Avoid the Ones You Don’t)
When you’re an ambitious entrepreneur, meetings can be the bane of your existence. They fill up your calendar, go on forever and are a distraction from achieving your objectives. Effective business owners only commit to meetings that move their business forward.
In my self-education as an entrepreneur, I’ve read many books and articles about effective management. Peter Drucker’s work in “The Effective Executive” resonated with me, as did the work of Fred Kofman and I’ve implemented some these strategies in my own business.
In this article, I want to show you how to apply these ‘best practice meetings’ theories in practical terms, which meetings to avoid and how to optimise the meetings you do attend.
Meetings are to decide and commit
Fred Kofman sums up the goal of a meeting perfectly.
“The only goal for a meeting is “to decide and commit. No other objective is worth meeting for.
No meetings to “discuss.” No meetings to “update.” No meetings to “report.” No meetings to “present.” No meetings to “evaluate.”
No meetings to anything but “decide and commit.”
Elements of good and bad meetings
With the ‘decide and commit’ goal in mind, I’ve put together a summary of the elements that can contribute to a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ meeting from my personal experience.
A well run meeting:
- Has a defined time and duration and starts and ends on schedule
- Information is provided ahead of time for attendees to consume and understand
- Has a clear agenda which the attendees stick to
- Includes only essential attendees
- Action steps are agreed upon during the meeting
- A summary of the decisions made in the meeting including action steps and timeframes is emailed to attendees after the meeting
A poorly run meeting:
- The decisions could have been reached via email / phone rather than requiring a meeting
- Attendees have not prepared for the meeting (in this instance it is better to reschedule the meeting rather than run through this slowly)
- The meeting goes off track, and there isn’t enough time to make decisions and agree on action steps
How to avoid meetings
1. Before agreeing to a meeting take a moment to contemplate whether it is necessary.
Can the issue be solved, or a decision made, in another way? Could a phone call or email suffice?
“I think this is an important discussion to have, however in the interests of time could we have this discussion over the phone?”
2. Does the meeting require your attendance?
Alternatively, could your team send you the meeting minutes to review or an email with a summary of the discussion and action steps?
“I am happy for you to run this meeting without me attending, but could you please send me a copy of the meeting minutes afterwards? If I have any questions I will arrange a separate call with you to discuss these”.
How to optimise your meetings
1. Agreeing to an agenda before the meeting.
If the agenda is unclear, the meeting might waste time or not even be necessary.
“Could you please send over an outline of what you had in mind for the meeting.”
2. Keeping the meeting on track and on time.
Your team will appreciate meetings running to time and the meeting objectives being met.
“You’ve raised a good point. In the interests of time let’s come back to the next agenda item, but let’s schedule a separate meeting to explore that idea further”.
3. Try halving the duration of your meetings.
Where a “usual” meeting would be scheduled to take an hour, halve it to 30 minutes and see what happens! You might be surprised at the increased focus of your team and what they can achieve in the reduced time-frame
4. Follow up with a summary email within 24 hours.
This ensures the action steps which were agreed on during the meeting are documented, and you keep the momentum of the meeting. If you don’t attend the meeting, ensure one of your team members is completing this step.
Train your team about meeting expectations. Lead by example and ensure the meetings you organise are well run. It is likely that your team will have some meetings without you. To assist in optimising these meetings make sure to train your key team members on the elements of a well-run meeting.
Remember the purpose of a meeting is to ‘decide and commit’.
Having a clear agenda, expecting attendees to come prepared, staying on track during the meeting and following up afterwards with the agreed upon action steps will all help to optimise your meetings.
Finally, make sure to educate your team members about effective meetings and don’t be afraid to say no to a meeting if you don’t feel it will help to move your business forward.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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