Have you noticed that too many meetings are unfocused discussions that seem to go round and round, but never get anywhere?
People work best when we’re working within a framework. The most creative people build structure around what they do in order to be successful, making ritual their grounding force. We even prefer structure when we play. In his fascinating book “Game Frame,” Aaron Dignan explains that games are so compelling and energising because they use “the free space of movement within a rigid structure.”
And meetings are no different.
Structure is certainty
Without structure, there is chaos. Without structure we feel lost and unbalanced. With structure, we feel a sense of comfort and certainty that we are at least moving forward. Successful meetings follow a very specific structure, and the facilitator needs to know that structure in order to guide the attendees from one end of the meeting to the other, in the right sequence.
If you don’t follow this sequenced structure of the meeting, you will lose your attendees’ focus, and your meeting will start going down dark alleyways and will take wrong turns. The people in the meeting need to be taken by the hand and guided through the meeting, in order for them to feel satisfied that the meeting was useful.
Here are the 5 landmarks on the meeting roadmap that will keep your meeting tight, targeted and tactical.
What’s wrong with meetings?
Ever walk out of a meeting feeling unsure about whether you’ve actually got what you came for? Join the club. What went wrong?
If you don’t spend time before the meeting working out what you need to get out of the meeting, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. (If you really want to spend your meeting figuring out why you’ve pulled people away from their bread-and-butter work then go ahead, but be prepared for them to be a bit testy about it.)
Hey, be kind to yourself. It’s totally understandable. When you’ve planned meetings in the past it’s taken up your precious time, it felt like re-inventing the wheel each meeting, and maybe after all that effort you still didn’t get the results you were hoping for.
But what if planning your meeting was quick, easy, and gave you a level of clarity that you haven’t felt in a long time?
What if all it took was one sentence?
A friend of mine was cycling home from work one day, and as she cycled by someone, he toppled to the ground. My friend got off her bike, and stepped towards the small group of people that had already started to gather around the unconscious man. She looked around at them and saw panic and fear, but no action.
So she stepped forward.
She pointed at someone and said “You, call an ambulance.” She pointed at someone else and said “You, move everyone back so that the ambulance people can get here. “
She knelt down at the man’s side and felt his pulse. There was no pulse. She looked up at the group and said “Does anyone else know CPR?” A man stepped up, and together they performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.
We’re all waiting for someone else to take the lead
My friend, in taking control at the scene of a medical emergency, demonstrated why meetings need leaders. When people get together, if no one takes the lead, if no one’s job is to mobilise the troops, then the results that will be achieved, if any, will only be achieved by wasting time and beating around the bush, and very likely causing conflict and frustration.
The reality is that people are looking for someone to lead them, in meetings as in anywhere else. I experienced this personally in many meetings I attended where the chair was suddenly unable to attend. The people in the room started to whisper amongst themselves, as if they were saying, “what do we do now?” It just takes one person to step forward and take control. No control, no meeting, no results.
Why does it seem to happen that in a one hour meeting, the real stuff that needs discussing seems to surface with 10 minutes to go?
And it’s not just meetings. A coaching mentor of mine labels her clients’ meaty revelations just prior to wrapping up their sessions as “door handle comments” because they happen as the person’s getting ready to say goodbye.
Sometimes these comments are heartfelt and obvious, but don’t be fooled when they are thrown out almost casually. Door handle comments are often the most revealing parts of your meetings, where people expose what they truly think. You’d do well to sit up and take notice.
Because they happen all the time.
Here are 5 ways to speed up the “door handle comments” and cut to the chase.
Have you ever longed to do something really well, but never got off the blocks because you didn’t know how, and figured that you’d never be able to do it anyway?
I recently swallowed my pride, my fear, and the belief that I was not (and never would be) a swimmer and signed up for a private one-on-one session with an instructor at the local pool. The result? I swam a full 25 metre lap without stopping for the first time in my life – after only ever having that one 15 minute lesson.
Imagine how you will feel after you have triumphed over the one thing that’s getting between you and your ideal vision of the meetings you would love to lead. Learning to lead meetings well is like learning to swim – with the right advice, it’s easier than you might think.
Here are the 7 things I learned about improving skills quickly and setting yourself up for success.
Want to spend less time in meetings?
Studies show that managers and leaders spend 40-50% of their working hours in meetings and that as much as 50% of that time is wasted.
Do you remember being in meetings that promised to be fast, but left you furious because the meeting wasn’t getting anywhere and you had a million other things you could be doing? Pulling a group of busy professionals into unproductive meetings is like buying a luxury sports car and driving it around a car park in second gear.
So here are 5 ways for you to keep your meetings tight and on track.