We form committees, collaborate, and meet with good intentions. The belief is that by sharing information, discussing problems, and vetting ideas, meetings will lead to progress and productivity. Yet, we find ourselves all too often leaving meetings tired, frustrated, and confused.
To that end, be familiar with the Frustrating Four. These types of meetings are the most unproductive. Please, keep in mind that we have never met any leader or co-worker who has told us that their goal is to deliberately lead a bad meeting. But, poorly run meetings and unproductive conversations happen every day. Be on the lookout for these four quintessential problems:
- The Tailspin. Without getting too technical or exploring aviation, this is simply a severe downturn in a meeting. These meetings typically start bad and end worse, usually due to a lack of trust. The minute you think things can’t get anymore unproductive, the meeting declines yet again.
- The Wandering. This is an aimless journey with no clear sense of direction. Be careful, these meetings can still have an agenda, but they have no real direction and every comment is only a detour. To be sure you’re in a wandering meeting, just note if anyone has an idea about what each agenda item is supposed to accomplish other than long commentary.
- The Treadmill. The meetings leave you exhausted, literally spent, and in reality you haven’t gone anywhere. They are masked as productive time at work since people are engaged, but the meetings really lack depth and any sense of genuine accomplishment. You’re tired and that feels goal-oriented, but when you reflect, you realize that you have no clear path forward.
- The Formal. These are meetings for the sake of meeting; they are on the calendar, and they’ve always held a standing time slot. People attend, comply, and leave annoyed. Worst of all is when the agenda items are old or irrelevant, but you continue to meet anyway.
As we focus on being a better teammate and embracing solutions, we offer our final concept of the month–become The Closer. Similar to The Moderator, the closer adds structure to each meeting. But, rather than guiding a meeting to moderate progress, The Closer adds accountability for each agenda item.
As meetings unfold and ideas are discussed, many of the comments made are good but require additional work post-meeting. Too often, meetings don’t have a person assigned to the role of identifying and highlighting the next steps after the meeting and the individual or group responsible for completing them before the next meeting. The Closer’s primary function is to capture the value in every idea and then pause the meeting to direct the conversation regarding the intricacies of the suggestions and who is responsible for the work. Once the details are on the table, a due date is then decided. This way, the intellectual capital that is being created by the team is not lost. Because this process sets the stage for future meetings, the level of accountability proves for a productive future meeting. This level of focus simply cuts down on the Frustrating Four. Next time you’re in a meeting that isn’t going well, try this three-minute challenge.
Regardless of your role in the organization or meeting, being a great teammate means stepping up and willingly accepting responsibility. We often don’t want to admit it, but we are all liable for how meetings run, even if we’re not leading the session.
Next time you’re in a meeting, introduce this concept and be willing to be the first one to accept the role:
- Closers capture suggestions. So many great ideas are shared in meetings, and as quickly as they’re mentioned, they’re forgotten. Ideas that gain momentum need someone to begin evaluating them through the lens of responsibility. Next time a suggestion is made, upack the organizational moving parts associated with it.
- Closers pause the meeting. Last week we introduced The Examiner. This is where the examiner and the closer partner to guarantee that ideas are vetted so that those that require further investigation or discussion are specifically assigned to someone on the team.
- Closers assign due dates. Great ideas are only effective if they are put into action. Don’t lose valuable ideas that can revolutionize your situation by never getting them done. The Closer either sets a due date or schedules a follow-up meeting as the checkpoint.
Technical Tip: Google Docs creates a platform that increases transparency, overall progress, and communication without meeting at all. Use Google Docs to assign tasks, provide space for comments, and include a column with a due date. Everyone can share the document and have access before the meeting. Each meeting, the document is used to determine how everyone is progressing as a team.
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