It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It’s the tale of two meetings. Collaboration is rewarding. True synergy is exhilarating. A meeting of hearts and minds around a common purpose and a compelling vision is among the best of times for leaders. The other side of the coin is ugly. There’s nothing like an early afternoon meeting that siphons your day while your mind wanders and you nod off to sleep. Some meetings need a funeral and a proper burial. Some meetings can and should find new life with a few strategic moves. Before you kill your next meeting, try these three actions.
Stop the runaway train.
Maybe it’s the kid in me. I haven’t lost my fascination with trains. When I sit in my car at a railroad crossing I am mesmerized by the movement. Trains transport staggering payloads. The intentional movement of freight is a great visual reminder of how a few basic principles support big ideas.
Trains travel on the tracks. The tracks lead to the next destination. Between origin and a destination lies a clear path forward. Positive momentum matters a great deal.
How about your last meeting? Energized meetings stay on track, flow with intentionality toward a clear destination and sustain momentum through challenges and adjustments. Think about it. Every meeting needs boundaries, purpose and energy. These qualities define effective meetings, but they are not inevitable. In fact, it’s much easier for a meeting to stray than it is to stay on track.
Before you endure another bad meeting, evaluate the basics. Establish a track that leads to measurable progress and enables positive accountability. Clarify and restate the purpose. Check the energy level. These are the basics for great meetings.
Don’t have a tea party.
Tea parties are great for children. It fosters imagination, creativity and conversation. But, everyone knows that when you sit down with a small child for a tea party, there is no tea. When it comes to meetings, you need to have tea. There cannot be a pretend agenda. Envision what is required for every person to finish the meeting and say, “that was worth my investment of time and energy.”
Take the guesswork out of your meetings. Do you have a purpose that is clear and captivating? When was the last time you left a meeting more energized than you were when you began? You don’t want people pretending to see what’s most important. You don’t need them to fake it. They need to be present, engaged and authentic.
If you are participating in a meeting that needs resuscitation, it will not magically improve without intervention. Ask the question, “what will it take for this meeting to be a ten?”
Give the elephant a name.
If the energy level is low, you may need to look around the room to see if there are any uninvited guests. I’m talking about the elephant. It’s likely your meeting is being held hostage by one or more critical problems that everyone in the room could identify if it was safe to do so. Too many meetings sacrifice success by resisting any measure of outward discomfort.
Un-discussable issues that need to be discussed are notorious meeting killers. Nothing sucks the life out of a meeting like the proverbial elephant in the room that everybody sees but nobody talks about. Your elephant can be an issue. Most often, it is a pattern of behaviors. You cannot recapture your energy until you identify the elephant and put it on the table for respectful resolution.
Resolution unfolds in two steps. Create a safe culture where improvements are expected and sensitive conversations are respectful. These are important boundaries for effective meetings. Before you put the elephant on the table, make sure the table is strong enough. In other words, when state the obvious prepare your team for some creative tension.
Positive change requires creative tension. You cannot have a great meeting with a distorted view of the current reality. Give the elephant a name, put it on the table and unite the team around solutions. When it comes to meetings, you have the power to make it the best of times.
At InitiativeOne we help leaders maximize resources. Our Leadership Transformation helps you create a leadership culture where meetings generate positive momentum toward your vision. Learn more at InitiativeOne.