Everyone wants fewer meetings, and there’s a tremendous amount of attention right now focused on how to achieve that. This is a worthy goal, but also a misguided one. Instead of focusing on limiting meetings, we should be trying to spend less time in the meetings that are already on the schedule.
The word “meeting” doesn’t have to be synonymous with wasting time – a dreaded obligation that keeps you from doing your real work. I would argue that meetings are actually the heart of an effective organization. Each meeting is an opportunity to clarify issues, set direction, sharpen focus, create alignment, and move objectives forward.
Here are 5 reasons why it’s worth the time and talent in the room to call a meeting:
Reason #1: To bring progress back on track whenever one of your goals, projects, or initiatives slows, stalls, or stumbles.
Discussing progress on the team’s goals and projects should be the first choice for your agenda—especially if one of these areas of focus is in jeopardy. Ensuring that the organization produces as intended requires regular follow up. Confronting any lack of progress or slowing of momentum is essential. Either every important project is moving as planned or you are making time to discuss it and get it back on track.
You also want the norm in your organization to be “get bad news early,” so remind people to communicate as soon as they think a goal is at risk. Then be compassionate, gracious, and forward-focused when you are told.
Reason #2: To discuss complex issues to ensure your group has a shared understanding of what matters to you and the organization.
Organizational values are honed by discussing topics such as transparency, integrity, inclusion, and ethics.
Most organizations have excellent processes in place for setting, tracking, and evaluating goals, but few take the time to discuss with people how they are expected to go about accomplishing them. As a result, clarity around these expectations is missing. Similarly, while many organizations have published values, they tend not to be discussed or explored often enough for these values to shape how people think and work.
This is a case of “out of sight—out of mind.” Good people will make mistakes without regular conversations about what is expected of them in the way they work. Having your values written is not enough to ensure they are being lived.
Reason #3: To clear the air and answer questions whenever you are implementing change in the organization.
Not only is it helpful for employees to have the freedom to ask about anything, it’s vital for each of your people to know what you know about any given situation that impacts them.
Life is difficult enough all by itself. To have an unanswered question or concern about what is going on in the organization leads to stress, rumors, and gossip.
Usually managers wait until they know everything about a situation before they discuss it. They aren’t comfortable responding to questions unless they have answers, and they don’t want to worry their people with uncertainty.
But what people need is clarity rather than certainty to be able to handle change. The time to speak with people is when you don’t have all the answers. Just tell them what you do know and when you will know more. If you tell people what you know, they will stop making up stories about what isn’t being discussed.
Author Tim Gallwey makes the point that anytime people are not at their best, there is simply a thought that is getting in the way.
When working with performers, Tim developed this question to help clear whatever might be in the way:
Is there anything at all about which you are curious, wondering, anxious, or concerned?
This is a powerful question to adapt and make your own. Your group will appreciate the opportunity to ask anything and receive your honest responses. Doing so will create a culture of safety and openness that effective organizations strive to achieve.
Reason #4: To seek input on an issue or situation that would benefit from the wisdom of the group.
For most managers, this is one of the least-utilized benefits of meetings. Most ideas, situations, or dilemmas benefit from a rich, challenging conversation with the members of one’s team. Clarity usually leads to action, and wonderful back-and-forth conversations will lead to clarity.
In addition, this conversational practice helps create balance in organizations that have unwittingly created a cultural norm of “everyone needs to be self-sufficient and doesn’t need mentoring, coaching, or support.” We all perform at higher levels when we are working inside of a relationship, whether that means an outside coach or routine conversations with our managers and colleagues about our work.
Reason #5: To create powerful working relationships through one-on-one meetings with each person who works for you.
People will argue that creating great relationships with your employees is not all that important, but it is. Think about it: Your relationship with your boss is critical not only to your success, but to your whole experience of work.
Yes, everyone is busy. Yes, people need autonomy. But people also need you on their side. They need clarity, future, and focus. And most importantly, they need a relationship with you in which they are never left to wonder about your expectations or assessment of their work.
Infrequent conversation will not produce what your people want and need. For one-on-one meetings, I would not go longer than two weeks between check-ins.
Meetings can provide an opportunity to communicate with your team and get everyone on the same page. Learn more communication tools and methods with these AMA resources and seminars: