Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How to Create Business Meetings That People Actually Want to Attend

We’ve all been there. The weekly meeting that everyone dreads going to. It’s the same old thing. Everyone goes around the room, talks about what they are up to, and rarely is there any real interaction or collaboration. The manager hands out more tasks that need to be completed by Friday. The meeting ends with a yawn. Then, there are the meetings where the manager is known for being a bully. He or she brow beats the attendees. People are fearful they will be “called on the carpet.” Nothing good comes of either of these types of meetings. Generally people are just waiting until they can find another job, hoping that the next place is better.  

The good news is, there is a third type of meeting. It is the meeting people look forward to each week. Folks in other departments hear about it and request to attend. They may say, “it’s the only place where I can find out what’s happening around here.” By the way, these are meetings that are inclusive. They promote collaboration. It is where real breakthroughs happen. 

Let’s look at how to create business meetings that people actually want to attend:  

It’s Not About You - First, admit it is not about you. The meeting is not an opportunity to grand stand, pontificate or to let others know how great you are. The meeting should be a productive sharing of ideas, information, plans, etc. As you begin to make the shift from “me” to “we,’” some remarkable things will begin to take place in your meetings.  

Invite Everyone to the Party - If you exclude anyone on the team, they will feel excluded. In a productive meeting, the more the merrier. You will find that some of the best ideas come from totally unexpected places. Often, a question asked by someone not directly involved in a project can be the spark that creates a break-through.  

Provide the Opt-Out Option - The option to opt out provides a level of freedom. You step down from the role of dictator and let some freedom circulate within the team. Someone may opt-out one week because they are busy on a project. Someone else may opt-out another week because they have a call scheduled with a client. However, if no one shows up to the meeting, it is a good sign you need to make the meeting more useful and fun.  

Select the Best Format - If everyone works in the same office, then the traditional conference room approach is great. If it is a nice day, consider taking it outside. However, if part of your team works in the office and the rest of the team works remote, hold the meeting using a conference call for everyone. This ensures that local and remote folks all feel equally in the loop.

Make Respect a Top Priority - Treating people with dignity and respect should go without saying. But it needs to be said. Set the example by being kind, considerate and polite. Do not criticize, demean, or put others on the spot. This meeting is not the place to address a performance problem. As the leader, it is up to you to set a positive example of how to treat others. 

Just Listen - Many meetings are one sided. One person talks. Everyone else may or may not listen. If you begin to listen, really listen, you will learn new things. You will pick up on the climate of the organization’s culture. You will hear what’s working and what is not working. You will begin to understand the values that people hold dear and see where they overlap with everyone else. 

Don’t Hold Back - Unless there is information that truly cannot be shared in a group setting, share what you know with everyone. If there is a new policy coming down from corporate that you can discuss, talk about it. If there is an issue with a client, let everyone know what’s going on. If there are problems with sales, bring it up. The more you share, the more people will feel informed and trusted. Trust has a way of breeding more trust. Besides that, the team is able to perform better because they are equipped with more information. 

Encourage Free Exchange - Once you have provided some content, let everyone talk about it. Some may not like what you said. Others will. Let the discussion unfold. Don’t try to control or moderate it. This will likely get messy in the case of a contentious issue. That’s OK. Problems can be resolved quickly when attendees express how they feel with the group. 

Make Decisions by Consensus - “My way or the highway” does not work. Sure, people may nod their heads and pretend to go along with those kinds of decisions but they will be looking for a loophole. The better way is to involve the team in the decision making process from the start. Not only will everyone feel the sense of control that comes from actively participating, the decisions made by team consensus are almost always better and more robust. 

Value Everyone - Everyone has value and something to contribute. You just need to create the space for that to unfold. If people understand that you value them, as a person, they will feel safe. They will begin to see you as a person for whom they would “do anything for.”

Here are some bonus items from our Tribe member Greg Chambers….  

Agenda – Even weekly meetings need a format or agenda (even if the agenda is not sent out in advance). 

Content timing – Content should match the time allotted. How many meetings have you been to where there is Open Discussion as the last part of the agenda and you NEVER get there, or barely get there week after week and everyone leaves the meeting without the ability to talk about the things they want to talk about. How many meetings do you go to where they are set for 1 hour and after 10 minutes it’s obvious that there’s 2 hours of content? 

Be on time (early) – How important does your group perceive your content to be when YOU, the manager or owner of the meeting shows up late and unprepared?  How many managers have a culture where the meeting starts when everyone finally shows up? Start on time. Expect people to be on time (if you are early you are on time, if you are on time, you’re late).  Once the culture changes, the participants of the meeting will be pointing out when the host is not on time. Holding everyone accountable is what you want. 

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