How to Make Meetings Feel Less Like a Root Canal

Structure, Preparation, and Attitude Can Make Meetings More Effective
coworkers in a meeting looking bored

You’re moving along, getting work done, feeling productive, and then you have to stop for a meeting. Normally this wouldn’t bother you, but you’re not sure why you were invited to this meeting, or even what the purpose of the meeting is. So you break your concentration and hope you can get back into the flow afterward. While in the meeting, you get frustrated because there is no clear direction, people are talking over each other and, worst of all, the meeting produces nothing but more questions and increased frustration. You go back to your task and realize the motivation and drive you had before the meeting are gone.

Have you ever had meetings like this in which the only purpose was to sit in a room for at least an hour and talk about what was going on that week. Did this really need to take an hour of the day?

Don’t misunderstand: Meetings are vital to the success of an organization. The issue is how to move a meeting from being compared to a tooth extraction to a significant part of the growth and development process.

1. Be aware of your attitude 

Understand that our attitude plays a significant role in how we approach meetings. If we enter a meeting with a sense of annoyance and frustration, that is how people are going to react to us. If we understand the meeting can allow us to share ideas, develop relationships, and open up dialogue – rather than be a burden – we have begun moving in the right direction.

2. Prepare

There is nothing worse than having to spend important time rehashing the last meeting because some choose not to read the minutes. Take the time to gain an understanding of what happened at the last meeting. People understand if you miss a meeting because you’re out of town or life gets in the way of work. They are less likely to understand if you choose to not inform yourself and then waste the group’s time.

There also is a need to understand that the meeting is not the place to do the work. If the members of a group are assigned tasks, have them done and be ready to report. So often, groups try to plan everything in one meeting, and that is a recipe for organizational frustration and failure.

3. Have the right kind of meetings

Know what kind of meeting is needed for the task and organization. Organizational health expert Patrick Lencioni’s book “Death by Meeting" has some good tips on this. Lencioni outlines four types of meetings that will fit various needs of an organization and provide deliberate and effective approaches to meetings:

Daily Check-In (5 to 10 minutes)

This allows the group the opportunity to share information about what is happening that day or week. Lencioni recommends that the participants should not even sit down. This awareness opportunity can happen daily, but at minimum weekly.

Weekly Tactical Meeting (45 to 90 minutes)

The tactical meeting is broken into three parts.

  • The Lighting Round is the opportunity for participants to identify their priorities in less than a minute. This differs from the Daily Check-In as it is focused on priorities and not happenings.
  • The second part, the Progress Review, is an opportunity to share organizational metrics: budget, survey satisfactions, and so on. These two parts should not take up more than 15 minutes total.
  • The final part of the meeting is the Real Time Agenda. Rather than being a predetermined agenda, the members of the team determine the conversation. This allows the members of the group to create buy-in, because the topics revolve around what they need. Some people believe there needs to be an agenda to keep people on topic, but in the end, you will have an agenda created by people doing the work, not the leader.

Monthly Strategy (minimum 2 hours)

This is about developing the organization, not looking at what is happening. This opportunity allows people to consider the critical issues or industry changes that could potentially affect the organization. This meeting focuses on analyzing and debating, allowing people to dig into specific topics that can lead to growth.

Quarterly Offsite Review

This gets the organization out of the office and away from the distractions of their workspace. During this meeting, the team will review organizational strategies and industry trends. The Quarterly Offsite Review allows for the development of strong relationships and team development through group interaction in a relaxed setting and through the development of goals as a team. This allows the members of the organization, particularly the leadership team, to focus on the future of the organization.

Meetings are not meant to be a punishment. They can develop team, create focus and offer new ideas, as long as the organizational leaders focus on the development of the people and the organization. If people can grab a hold of meetings and use them as a place to create dialogue with a focus on development (and not power and politics), organizations will become successful and stable.

For more information on creating effective meeting, check out “Death By Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni

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