How High-Performance Organizations Make Meetings Effective

by J. Elise Keith

Tip 1: Set clear expectations for all meetings. Meeting norms, ground rules, guidelines — these set the foundation for building an effective meeting habit. They often include things like use of an agenda and keeping meetings on time. Whatever your rules, the leadership team must follow them. The way the leadership group meets sets the real standard everyone else follows. 

Tip 2: Document and share meeting results. Fear of missing out (FOMO) compels people to attend meetings they shouldn’t. Organizers don’t want to leave people out, so they invite everyone who might possibly want to weigh in. Having irrelevant people in the room de-energizes the conversation and disrupts productivity. Documented meeting results are the fastest and easiest way to combat meeting FOMO. Before the meeting, clearly document the meeting purpose and desired outcomes. After the meeting, send out written meeting results. When people can see in advance what a meeting is for, then see afterwards what happened, they can decide whether they need to attend. This keeps meetings more focused, and it keeps everyone more productive. 

Tip 3: Define ‘The Way’ to meet for all core processes. There are 16 different types of business meetings, and each has a purpose. A regular team meeting is good for confirming progress and identifying problems, but it’s a lousy place to make a big decision. Big decisions demand a dedicated decision-making meeting. Similarly, the initial meeting with a prospective client (or funder) should look very different from the meeting where you ink the deal. Each of these pivotal meetings can be optimized to drive the results your company needs. High-performance organizations know the type of meetings they need to run and how to run each one well. Each meeting gets a name and becomes “the way” that kind of work gets done. For example, the team’s check-in meeting becomes “the huddle.” The meeting to impress prospective clients early in the sales cycle becomes a “services briefing.” Anything called simply a “meeting” isn’t specific enough. 

Tip 4: Train everyone. Leaders spend up to 80 percent of their workday in meetings, yet many have never received meeting training. Meetings aren’t just conversations with a lot of people; there are skills and techniques to learn that radically improve meeting results. High-performance organizations provide skills training to people leading meetings. They also train everyone how to participate in the meetings, defined as “the way” to get their job done. Meetings represent an enormous salary investment, and high-performance organizations ensure their people get a good return on that investment.

Tip 5: ABL: Always be learning! Once it has “the way” to meet, the organization can experiment. For instance, what happens when we meet on Monday instead of Wednesday? If we tweak the process, can we make decisions faster? High-performance organizations have the process stability they need in order to run conclusive experiments and continuously improve their meeting practices. 

J. Elise Keith is co-founder of Lucid Meetings and author of Where the Action Is. 

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