How To Make Meetings Stink Less

blog060914We are really not a big fan of meetings. We’d even go as far as to say that meetings are toxic. Face it, we’ve all been in meetings that are slow and awkward to start, there’s very little progress that gets made in meetings, and they always seem to appear at the worst times. You have also seen too many people lack good meeting etiquette, and most meetings can be solved by email or group chat.

If it’s absolutely necessary to have meetings, at least you can follow these tips to have effective meetings. What it essentially boils down to, is treating people with respect (and listening to them), not making meetings that never end, and ideally having a clear agenda.

1. Respect People’s Time

Paul Graham (from Y Combinator) wrote an essay about how people who make things need large blocks of uninterrupted time. This is quite different from a manager’s schedule, who is used to being in meetings all day, and almost gets off on the fact that they can tell everyone how many meetings they’re attending.

Out of respect for people who actually do things, only schedule meetings early in the day. Why in the morning, because it’s been proven that we are more creative in the morning than in the afternoon. If you want people to actually come up with good ideas, and be creative in your meeting, then schedule it in the morning. And since you’re taking their precious time away from them, get them breakfast.

Also, make sure to have an agenda and share it with everyone before the meeting. If you called a meeting, you better have a good plan for how to conduct the meeting. Respecting your employees time is guaranteed to increase employee engagement.

2. Be Open To Ideas From Others

Leonard Karakowsky conducted a study, and found that senior leaders were more aggressive and vocal in meetings. Sound familiar to you? Indeed it does as this is 100% true. What the study found was that this destroyed any chance of innovation inside the company, because the more the rest of the group disagreed, the louder and more aggressive the senior leader would become. This leads to an environment where the only ideas in the room ever being shared are theirs. Obviously this doesn’t work.

There are two solutions to this that we can think of, but both involve being open and listening to other members of your team. The first is kind of creative, but will give you really unique insight into whatever problem or issue you’re trying to solve. Suppose this is a technical problem, maybe you’re trying to figure out what to do with a certain page on the company website. After “brainstorming” with the design team, and not having any luck, try going to someone or a group of people in a completely different department. This might seem like a crazy idea at first, but you’d be surprised at what kind of insight they could give you. And treat them like they were the design team, meaning take them through the entire problem from beginning to end, as if they were the ones responsible to solve it.

The second idea is to create a space where employees can feel safe to say anything and not be judged. Not only create this space, but actively communicate that this is the case, and encourage anyone and everyone to participate. Once you remove the fear element, people will be much more likely to come up with creative ideas to help solve problems.

We are big fans of flat hierarchies, but even if your organization isn’t flat, make this meeting space flat. As crazy as this sounds, encourage a low level employee to feel comfortable challenging an idea that a senior VP came up with. It’s through this type of open, transparent communication that real innovation happens.

3. Get Creative About How You Do Meetings

Meetings are so boring, why not spice them up a little? Imagine doing a meeting on Google Hangouts instead of the boring conference room. That way everyone can be right in front of their computers, and could potentially look something up as the discussion is happening. Another idea is to try a walking meeting, especially if it’s a nice day out and there aren’t too many people in the meeting. This change of atmosphere can be a nice way to spark creativity.

Remember to keep your meetings short. If it’s something that will require a large amount of time, space it out into a few different meetings. First of all, constraint breeds creativity, and second, the mind loses focus after about 45 minutes.

What Do You Do To Have Effective Meetings?

In a perfect world, you would never need to have meetings about anything, but since we have to have meetings, we should try and do everything we can to make them as effective as possible. Any tips you can share about having effective meetings? Let me know with your tweets @abetterleader!

Chris Craddock

As the leader of Projections' production team, Chris loves to inspire others to perform at the highest levels! From the most challenging leadership opportunities to brainstorming the latest topics leaders want to learn about, Chris provides clear direction and vision.