Meetings that Get Results and People Want to Attend: June Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on meetings that get results and that people want to attend. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on this topic.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about the art of the tough conversation. New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here.

Preparing for Meetings

Meetings wtih Clear PurposeSkip Prichard of Leadership Insights provides Five Tips to Master Your Next Meeting. Meetings are often the source of many complaints, but also key to advancing a business agenda. Skip’s tips will help you master your next meeting. Follow Skip.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference gives us What Meetings Do People Want to Attend? Design an experience.  Too many organizers fail to think about the answer to this question before scheduling a meeting. It’s up to leaders to design a better meeting experience. Follow Jon.

William Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts asks 8 Questions to Guarantee Meeting Productivity.  Ask these before, during and after a meeting to get the best results possible. Follow William.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group gives us Leading in Person: Six Reasons to Communicate Face-to-Face. There are more than enough ways to communicate – email, voicemail, text message, instant message – yet too often they can add up to message overload for employees. That’s why when something is important, nothing compares to face-to-face communication. When a leader needs to inspire people—or move them to action—the best way to do it is to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what they need to know. Follow David.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares Fire Up Your Conversations! When to Use Email–or Your Voice. Some “meetings” happen using written communication, others benefit by voice and face-to-face. Shelley helps us determine what medium to use.  Follow Shelley.

Making the Most of Meetings

Kaylee DeWitt of Patriot Software, LLC writes How to Make Meetings More Effective.  Unproductive meetings can burden employees and waste time. Use these five tips to make your next meeting more effective, build teamwork in the workplace, and improve business operations.  Follow Kaylee.Let's Grow Leaders on Meetings

Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group gives us 10 Ways to Killer Meetings.  We spend more time in meetings than we do eating. We cannot live without eating; you would think the same was true of meetings. Here are 10 ways to make your meeting effective, fun and valuable. Follow Chip.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership offers 10 Unusual Meetings to Make Your Team More Productive.  Meetings don’t have to be long, boring, and unproductive. Try these ten unusual approaches to get out of a rut, stimulate more creativity, and be more productive. Follow Ken.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership writes the Planning Doing Cycle. Rarely will you have the luxury of time to plan everything out before you start a new project or change initiative. And even if you do, it’s likely that unforeseen circumstances will send you back to the drawing board. Instead of planning and then doing, try approaching it as an iterative process, as a “planning / doing” cycle – like building a vehicle while you are driving it. Follow Jesse.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds encourages us with Making the Most of Meetings.  Given the commitment individuals and organizations are making to meetings—and given the reality that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon—it’s incumbent upon leaders to ensure that they squeeze as much value as possible out of the time invested. This article offers 3 P’s to consider before calling your next one. Follow Julie.

Reflecting on Meetings

Meetings Secret Bonus QuestionPaul LaRue of The UPwards Leader shares How to Make Change after the Conference.  Most conferences lead to little or no lasting change. Paul provides ways to reverse that trend. Follow Paul.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement provides Better Meetings. Meetings are perennial problems. People sit through meetings and then complain about how big a waste of time it was. Here are a few very simple tips to help achieve results with meetings (instead of just agreeing that meetings are wasteful, but doing nothing to improve them).  Follow John.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents To Plan, or not to Plan, that is the Question, where she shares that life is what happens while you are busy making plans. By learning to focus both on what is happening in this moment and what you need to do to get you to your ultimate goals, you’re more likely to get there. Robyn offers tips on learning to walk that balance of leadership along the way.  Follow Robyn.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited provides What You Should Do When Meetings Don’t Meet Expectations. This infographic provides tools for preparing for, making the most of, and reflecting on meetings to achieve better results.  Follow Beth.

Your turn.LGL News Coming Soon

Do you have a best practice to share? What topics would you like to see us cover in a future Frontline Festival?

We also have some exciting news coming later this month. Stay tuned for more information.

Are you a blogger? We would love to include you in our next Frontline Festival on the Art of the Tough Conversation. Submit your relevant blog posts here.

5 Ways To Make Your Meetings More Productive

I texted my colleague: “do you think we both need to attend the 3pm meeting?” He quickly shot back: “Karin, I don’t think anyone needs to go to that meeting. Don’t worry, I’ll represent both of us.”

And there we were two executives, not speaking up in the spirit of being politically correct, and covering for one another to minimize the pain. After all, we had real work to do.

Sometimes, apparently, I’m also the instigator of such meetings. I attended a meeting the other day and every person in the room was on their iPad working except the speaker and I. I stopped the meeting and questioned what appeared to be very rude behavior.

As I soon uncovered, the rest of the participants had held a dry run of the meeting the day before I arrived in town. Since I was the boss they wanted to practice. This entire meeting had turned into a read-out for me. Those meetings should have been consolidated, or the second meeting should have been cancelled: “Karin, we’ve got this.” Or at least become a one-on-one.

They did have this and didn’t need me. Pre-meetings are often a sign of wasted time. Invest in knowing how much your team is preparing to meet with you. Even if you think you’re low maintenance.

Despite my best efforts to change-up the meetings under my influence, I sometimes succumb, keep my mouth shut, and attend my fair share of time-wasters. That’s why when I received this note from a subscriber, I promised to write a blog response and schedule it up next.

I’ll offer my best thinking and hand it over to the LGL village for additional suggestions:

“I just read your recent post, 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Teamwork, and was personally touched when you started talking about misuse of staff meetings. It seems all I do is have read-out staff meetings and my staff hates them. But, I like it because the team is together as a whole and they learn what each other is working on and it does stimulate great conversation. However, they still hate them and, honestly, I hate them too. I would love to hear your perspective on how to have high-energy staff meetings. What are my alternatives? What can I do to achieve my goal of getting my 12 member team together weekly but not be a boring mess?

Make Your Meetings More Productive

  1. Cancel The Meeting & Create White Space – Pick one afternoon a week or a month that no one can talk to each other. Or take a regularly scheduled meeting, and just cancel it. See what happens over time. See how work gets done. See Jason Fried’s TED Talk: Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work.
  2. Make Each Meeting Unique – Even if you hold a regular weekly meeting, have a clearly defined purpose for each meeting that you articulate in advance. For example, by the end of this meeting we will:
    • identify the most important pages for our website
    • review our declining customer service trends and brainstorm 3 key actions to take this month
    • identify the theme and breakouts for our next symposium

    If your answer is read-out on results and progress on action plans cancel the meeting, and find another way.

  3. Ins-and-outs – Decide who needs to be there for which part of the meeting and then design the agenda accordingly. My weekly staff meetings always have a narrowing effect. We started with the larger group and narrowed as the topics move along. I make it clear that this is not to exclude, but a time-saving exercise.
  4. Stand-up Or Walk Among Yourselves – I’ll admit, when results go down, I intervene more. I’m a big believer in the stand-up huddle. Almost like a time-out check in for the day (or week). I think a big problem with meetings as we see them as sit on your butt occasions. Some of the best meetings start with “got a sec?” Try to emulate that feeling as much as possible. As Nilofer Merchant shares in her TED Talk: Fresh Air Drives Fresh Thinking.
  5. Make them think – I love the idea of Idea Tickets from Michael Michalko: “In advance of a meeting, frame a problem or issue to address. Ask each person to bring, at least, one new idea or suggestion about the problem as their ticket of admission to the meeting. Have the people write their ideas on index cards and collect them at the door. No one gets in without a ticket. Start the meeting by reading everyone’s contribution.”

PS: Tune in on Monday and we’ll talk about the most challenging kind of meetings: skip level meetings.

3 Reasons Your Meeting is a Waste of Time

“Okay, we need everyone’s full attention so here are the meeting rules. No texting. No sidebars. Full participation.”

If you have to start your meeting with ultimatums, something is wrong. Sure you could scold the team into paying attention. Better yet, figure out why they don’t want to.

3 Reasons Your Meeting is a Waste of Time

Wrong Purpose

One of my favorite posts submitted for the Frontline Festival was Jesse Lynn Stoner’s “No More Boring Meetings” The worst meetings are a one-way dump of information. These are meetings of “convenience,” for the leader. The leader asks for “updates” from each team member.

If you do not have a clear purpose for having a meeting, don’t have it. “We always have staff calls on Tuesdays,” does not count as a purpose. Articulate the purpose of the gathering at the outset (or even on the agenda). “By the end of the hour we will have made 4 decisions.”

Wrong People

If you need the decision maker– get her. Nothing frustrates a team more than debating and issue, reaching consensus, and then finding that they were missing key information or that a key stakeholder was not invited. Consider who must be included up front for which portions. Don’t waste time by having people sit through irrelevant topics until their subject comes up. You will gain great respect by honoring other people’s time.

Wrong Process

Determine the appropriate process up front. Unstructured meetings squander time. Create dialogue around topics that matter. Everyone does not need to speak on every topic. But if someone is tuning out, tune in and figure out why. Watch nonverbals. Invite factions to share their side bars with the group. If the meeting gets swonky, take a time out and check in with a few opinion leaders during the break.

You want people leaving your meeting saying, “now that was a great meeting.” “we accomplished so much.”

Great meetings should save time, not waste time.

The Scary Secret to Great Meetings

The first time it happened, I was devastated.

After all the hard work on building relationships.

All that investment in the team.

All that transparency.

All that work to create a level-less organization.

Why had my direct report team started holding “secret” meetings without me?

Why was that necessary?

What was I doing wrong?

Was this an indication that I had become the proverbial “boss” an image I had tried so hard to avoid?

It’s About Us

I shared my concerns with a member of the team.

Karin, this is not about you. This is about us. We need this. Relax.

I still don’t know exactly what happened in those “secret” meetings. Perhaps they talked about the work. Perhaps they settled some of their own conflict. Perhaps they complained about me. I am not sure it matters.

What I do know is those meetings transformed our organization.

Each leader began stepping up in new ways. They helped one another solve problems. They worked on each other’s projects. They mentored one another’s employees. They brought well-vetted options and solutions to our staff meetings.

My questions became more strategic. So did their answers.

Results kept climbing.

When you strive to be a servant leader, it can be tough to feel your team doesn’t need “serving.” You want to roll up your sleeves and support them. Sometimes the best support you can offer is to step away and give them the space to create, argue, and perform.

Now I welcome and encourage secret meetings.

Could your team use a “secret meeting?”