Are you the owner or manager of a PHCP company? Your life is a life of meetings. They are essential for communication, understanding, commitment and performance review. Meetings help you set goals, assign projects and get stuff done.
However, it is sickeningly soul-sucking to go to a meeting and talk about the same thing you talked about at the last meeting and the meeting before that. Just kill me now, am I right? Maybe our meetings should be less ... sucky.
I often write my columns based on what I need to learn or what my focus is on at the time. Right now, I am committed to making my meetings better.
Here’s why: At Zoom Drain, we hold a Huddle every week. The intention of the Huddle, a conference call meeting, is to see how everyone's doing, share some tips and ideas, and help each other as needed. All good things. However, the call had turned into me throwing a party! It became a hodgepodge of interruptions and story-topping. So, one of our franchisees called me out on it. He pointed out that what I considered fun, he found frustratingly unproductive. Ouch.
I know how to hold good meetings. I learned a lot from my pal and partner, Al Levi (firstname.lastname@example.org). Here are some of his sound, basic rules:
While I know these things, I’ve gotten sloppy about applying them. I’ve re-committed to these basics and to learn more about practical meeting skills.
Recently, I attended an excellent webinar on the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), based on the book “Traction,” by Gino Wickman. And I spent a day with the crew at The Great Game of Business, taking a terrific seminar by the authors of “Get In The Game,” Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker. I also visited with a few of my mentors and asked for their thoughts on meeting management.
10 tips for better business meetings
Here are my latest, greatest tips for making meetings better.
1. Ask “Why?” What is the intention of the meeting? Before you schedule a meeting, be clear on why you need one.
2. Consider what type of agenda will work for the meeting: Savvy marketing pro Josh Kelly (email@example.com) suggests meetings fall into three main types. A high-level classification can help you map out your specific meeting needs.
If you hold a meeting to flesh out your Statement of Values, that would be a conceptual meeting. The agenda would include time for brainstorming and vulnerable conversations. A project meeting — Execution/Assessment — would involve steps of delegation and quick yes/no answers to assigned tasks. An example of an accountability meeting would be a one-to-one tech/supervisor meeting to review the scorecard.
Business expert Howard Partridge (firstname.lastname@example.org) lays out a flexible plan for PODS, or Power of Discovery System meetings in his bestseller, “The Power of Community.” This useful approach can work for a 10-minute stand-up meeting as well as an hour-long training session. In this model, the emphasis is on asking questions and allowing others to discover insights and next steps.
Howard turned me on to EOS Level 10 Meetings, too. This meeting method is designed to read the pulse of the company. L10 meetings have a tight schedule and timeline:
This 90-minute agenda is terrific for a weekly departmental meeting. I love the did-you-or-didn’t-you accountability. And the issues segment gives you time to unpack the problems that are getting in the way.
Bottom line: Decide what you want the meeting to accomplish and then pick an agenda to serve that purpose.
3. Commit to your company language: As you adopt new ways of doing things, be respectful of your already established language. If you call the people you work for clients, call them clients (not customers) all the time. Also, name your meetings. The “Service Tech Sales Meeting” is better than the “Tuesday meeting.”
4. Meeting in person is best: Put cell phones in a basket and out of reach during the meeting. If you must, a video conference is a workable alternative. Keep the cameras on. It keeps you from multi-tasking and helps you stay in the moment.
5. Use a list-building app to keep track of projects and tasks: So many meetings go off the rails because no one writes anything down. Or the meeting notes are on a dry erase board in the boss’ office — and the boss is in Hawaii.
An app such as Trello, Basecamp, Google Keep or Asana allows you to make lists, assignments and due dates accessible to others and hold each other accountable. There are lots of these apps to choose from; pick one and adopt it company-wide.
6. Everybody is responsible for their own tasks, lists and calendars: These skills take practice. You can insist that every team member brings a notebook to the meeting, or demonstrates their note-taking skills in the list-building app. Blocking out project and task time on your calendar is essential if you are going to live up to your commitments.
7. Make decisions quickly: Better yet, let others make decisions. Even if it’s something you wouldn’t do, why not let someone else make the call? It just might work, and you may learn something. If it doesn’t, let the consequences lead the way to another decision. Your frontline people know what’s wrong with your company and how to fix it.
8. Wrangle the talkers: Some just love to share in meetings. I am one of them! It’s OK to have a hand signal — a time out T —to stop anyone who exceeds the time limit. Put good ideas that are not on the agenda on the Master Project List on your Trello board for future discussion. Ride along with the chatty guys. Spend a day or half-day together to let them share without the constraints of a formal meeting.
9. Score your meetings: I got this tip from EOS training. All participants give a 1 to 10 ranking of the meeting. I really did not want to do this. It’s scary! However, knowing I will be scored has helped me up my game. Try it!
One last tip: Stop blaming others for your lack of success: Or happiness. Or profitability.
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin wrote the blockbuster, “Extreme Ownership.” It is defined like this: A true leader takes 100 percent ownership of everything in his domain, including the outcome and everything affecting it. This is the most fundamental building block of leadership that cuts across all other principles. It applies to leadership at any level, in any organization. Just own it. And get on with it.
As a team, in meetings, we can plan. We can take agreed-upon action. Then, we can check the score and assess. If we drop the blame and finger-pointing, we can move faster and further. Productive meetings support this process.
Now, that’s better.