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Are “effective meetings” a myth?

In an effort to continually improve our business, I have been focusing on our internal operating system. In the process, I discovered that I was not satisfied with the way we held meetings. We have so many meetings, yet it seems like nothing really gets accomplished. I have even heard rumblings amongst the team that “we have too many meetings” or “why do we have these meetings?” Naturally, I kept switching the format and trying new things. I even got an old school cooking timer to make sure we stayed on time.

Thankfully, I recently listened to a Podcast on with Steven Rogelberg, a professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Rogelberg discussed the importance of well organized meetings. He even wrote a book on it called, The Surprising Science of Meetings, which I promptly ordered for our leadership team.

Here are some lessons I learned through my experience this past year and some take-aways from listening to Rogelberg and others.

First, ask yourself the following questions: Why are we having this meeting? What is the reason for it? Who called the meeting? Are there agenda items? Do those items ask the question why? Do we need to read a report or brief in advance? Who is the facilitator? What is my role in this meeting? What is expected of me?

Second, meetings should be no longer than 30 minutes. The meeting should be interactive with the facilitator leading and directing the meeting. The participants are expected to solve and engage in the meeting. The facilitator is leading the meeting, however, they are not the main speaker. The participants must dominate conversations equally. The facilitator’s role is to make sure everyone is engaged and actively adding value to the meeting.

Finally, at the end of each meeting, there should be a well defined action plan in place with deliverables. The “Why” of the meeting should be answered. You should have a sense that this was time well spent, be crystal clear on what needs to be done, and who is in charge of doing it.

The most precious commodity in any business is time. We only have 24 hours each day. Everyone should be aware that each participant’s time is valuable. Clear and efficient meetings are very important to a successful organization. All of my team members are required to come prepared to participate and keep all electronic devices off unless someone is facilitating a presentation tied to the TV screen.

Feedback is also important to developing a successful organization. We will be measuring the effectiveness of these meetings, participant engagement, takeaways, clearly executed and aligned action plans, etc.

Here are some bullet points in regards to having meetings:

  • All meetings will last thirty (30) or forty five (45) minutes maximum and the timeframe will be indicated in advance.
  • All meetings should have a pre-determined agenda with no deviation. Agenda points should be outlined in advance with relevant employees or managers identified so they can come prepared.
  • All general or departmental meetings should be scheduled on a Company calendar at least one week in advance with a complete agenda.
  • Special meetings called by managers should be scheduled forty eight (48) hours in advance on the Company shared calendar.
  • “Wild Card” meetings can be called by managers but last no longer than thirty (30) minutes.
  • Action items/ steps should be assigned based on agenda with AGING TARGET COMPLETION dates based on a DEFCON schedule of 1-5 (5 being less critical).

If you haven’t thought about how to make your meetings more efficient, I trust this will get you started on the right path. Holding effective meetings is not a myth. Effective meetings are definitely an essential driver in growing your business and developing the right company culture.

Craig Cecilio is the CEO and Founder of DiversyFund, Husband, and Father to three daughters. Craig’s mission is to break down the barriers that keep most Americans from investing like the wealthiest 1%. 

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