Meetings: A Culture Hacker Guide
Welcome back to the Culture Hacker blog series. Today, I want to discuss an important communication tool that is unfortunately rendered ineffective too often, and that is the traditional meeting. American author Dave Barry wrote, "If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be meetings.” The sad reality is that most employees are likely to agree.
Meetings are important and necessary, but there are too many of them, and they are usually badly delivered and led. There are three critical types of meetings that we should discuss; the daily operations meeting, the project meeting, and the monthly/quarterly department/team meeting.
Daily meetings are found in a variety of departments and are used to update the associates on what is happening or expected to happen each day. By conducting a daily meeting away from customers and other distractions, managers have the perfect opportunity to communicate effectively. It is a great opportunity to share messages, receive feedback, and to inspire the team in an efficient and effective manner; yet, for many teams it never occurs because managers claim they just don’t have the time. My response to this is, so when do you make time to communicate effectively?
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was one of the biggest proponents of the daily meeting. He wrote, “The morning meeting was the core to my approach to managing.” So, whenever I hear a manager say he or she is too busy to have a daily meeting with their staff, Rudy Giuliani comes to mind, because if ever there was an excuse not to have a daily meeting 9/11 was it, and yet, Giuliani never deviated from it once.
A couple of things to remember to ensure an effective daily meeting:
- Keep it to ten minutes or less.
- Ensure there is an opportunity to get feedback from your team.
- It should get their attention, get them energized, and get them thinking about what they are about to do for the day. Think of it as your chance to flip the switch that will ignite your team for the day.
- Have the staff lead the meetings on a rotating basis to get them engaged.
The next meeting we should discuss is project meetings. These are used to bring a group of people together to solve problems or complete projects. These meetings often become routine and a waste of time for many reasons, some of which are because they try to cover too many items, they do not follow an agenda, they last more than an hour, they involve death by PowerPoint, and they generally lack purpose over a period of time. In addition, according to a recent article, 34% of professionals admit to doing unrelated work during meetings, and 21% have even dozed off in a meeting they felt was pointless. Sound familiar? Thought so. So, let’s think about challenging the purpose and changing the paradigm for these project meetings.
To begin with, audit your project meetings to ensure they have a purpose and an agenda. Evaluate whether these meetings start and finish on time, having less than 10 people involved allows everyone to participate, and assigns tasks to be completed in between meetings. Also, good project meetings regularly have their participants rate the usefulness of the meeting. Remember, this type of meeting does not need to happen every week, so there should always be a willingness to only meet as required. Updates and information can be shared via email, so focus on utilizing meetings to help clarify information and make decisions.
Monthly/Quarterly Team Meetings
Finally, let’s address monthly or quarterly team meetings. These have largely become predictable and irrelevant for a number of reasons already mentioned, but can be an important communication method when delivered correctly. Whole team meetings are a great opportunity to reinforce values and culture, as well as reinforce teams of any recent training initiatives.
To make a monthly/quarterly meeting effective, ensure that the team knows they are not only encouraged to, but expected to contribute. Also important is that the team’s ideas and contributions have consideration and are utilized when prioritizing needs and making decisions. And, as we have already suggested, there must be an agenda – ideally, one that is distributed ahead of time to give everyone a chance to prepare. I also like to ensure there is some form of recognition and inspiration at the end of every monthly meeting. Always leave your team members on a high.
As a final note, don’t think that just because the majority of your staff are becoming more and more reliant on technology, that they don’t value face-to-face interaction through effective meetings. According to Michael Massari, Senior VP of Caesars Entertainment, “Millennials are highly collaborative and want to meet, learn and grow. If we don’t engage Millennials through active participation in face-to-face meetings and if we don’t help build their professional relationships, we will lose their talent and attention to organizations that do.”
Please make meetings relevant and worthwhile. Don’t add to the culture and expectation that meetings don’t matter – they do as long as they are delivered right. Thanks for reading – don’t forget to check out Culture Hacker for more insights on the important mechanisms that will make or break your company culture.