A Formula for Better Meetings

How many meetings have you attended so far this week? Were they worth your time?

It’s probably no surprise to you that meetings cost organizations valuable time, energy, and money. Most leaders are in so many meetings, that there is no time to get real work done!

Does that sound familiar?

According to Ted.com, meetings are estimated to waste about $37 billion a year in the United States. A meeting with several managers and executives could cost up to $1,000 an hour in salaries. And 73% of employees do other work during meetings.

I’ve developed a framework for making meetings much more productive and successful so you can gain back valuable time and get better results.

CPA=R

Clarity + Purpose + Accountability = Results

Clarity: A meeting will be much more efficient and effective if you have clarity around what you want to accomplish and who should be there. One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is to meet without any clarity around the goal for that particular meeting. The result is wasting valuable time while a lot gets talked about, but not much gets done.

Some questions to consider:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • What is the goal or outcome of this particular meeting?
  • Do you really need a meeting to accomplish the goal?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What are the key decisions that need to be made?
  • Create an agenda and communicate the specifics about the meeting to participants.

Purpose: Meetings need a purpose. Every meeting needs a goal. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, suggest creating a “Statement of Wild Success”. What would have to happen for your meeting to be wildly successful?

Having a purpose for your meeting seems obvious, but how many meetings have you attended where there seems to be no focus? Maybe there are 10 items on the agenda and discussions get completely off track. Before you start any meeting, state the goal or outcome (write it on a white board or agenda) and identify the key decisions that need to be made.

Accountability: How many meetings have you sat in where the team discusses great ideas, and then everyone leaves and nothing gets done? The productivity and energy that was created in the room is completely lost when there is no follow up. There must be accountability around action items for meetings to be a success. If you spend the meeting talking about ideas and then leave without assigning tasks or due dates, you are wasting time.

The first way to create accountability is to always start the meeting on time. Don’t wait for stragglers, just start. By starting on time, you set the tone for a productive meeting and you also send the message that you respect everyone’s time.

Another way to build accountability is to put one practice in place at the end of every meeting held at your organization: the end of meeting recap.

Take five minutes at the end of every meeting to convert discussions into action. Recap any decisions or actions items.

  • What are the key takeaways? (decisions made, etc.)
  • Who is responsible?
  • What is the deadline?
  • Who do we need to communicate to?
  • What do we need to communicate?
  • When do we need to communicate by?

It’s also important to have a facilitator of the meeting who can keep the discussion on track, remind everyone of the meeting objective, draw out differing opinions, and move the discussion along when someone is dominating the conversation. The facilitator plays a key role in getting results since her actions set the tone for the entire meeting.

I also recommend assigning a note taker in each meeting. The primary purpose of the note taker is to track any decisions or action items, who is responsible, and the due date. The note taker should email out this information (include the information in the body of the email since most people won’t open an attachment) within 24 hours of the end of the meeting.  This ensures everyone is on the same page and that no one can cast blame when they “don’t remember” what was decided at the meeting.

These simple practices will cut down on wasted time, increase meeting productivity, and ensure your team actually gets results from the time invested. You may even find that you need less meetings because the team becomes more disciplined and efficient. Wouldn’t that be nice?!

I’d love to hear from you: What is one way you make your meetings more productive?

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