Stop the Boring All-Encompassing Meetings
As a child I loved exploring something new. I (generally) enjoyed the journey and the process. I remember when I was a boy I pretended to shave with a blank razor while watching my Dad shave before work. Perhaps you remember putting on makeup or jewelry. It was fun, had a quick return, and I offered little resistance. I’ve observed that it’s often different now that I’m an adult – and it seems magnified for leaders at work.
When leaders are attempting new meeting rhythms and habits that have proven successful, I often meet resistance. It sounds like, “We don't have time to hold 2-day Quarterly Planning sessions.” Or, “We should be able to conduct our weekly meetings in less than 30 minutes; we’re used to moving fast!” Really? We’re talking about the habits of the elite 2% of business leaders, not the whole group. Would you expect your favorite sports player (college or pro) to be able to practice measurably less than everyone else and still make the cut?
Your team may be gifted, but becoming a lifetime member of the elite 2% takes continued effort, sound methodology, and it is a team sport. That’s one reason to have meetings – productive meetings, and they don’t have to be boring. In fact they can be energizing and highly productive with the right framework.
There are two basics for good team meeting rhythms:
- Stay in your lane. Annual planning meetings are about the year, not about how to complete the last two weeks of this quarter strong! Weekly meeting are for execution adjustments and discussions, not about quarter strategy. When you cross lanes, you get boring. If it’s a necessary discussion, set a specific meeting time/date with the right people while keeping your meeting in your lane.
- Be practical, not legalistic. At Rhythm Systems, we have two regular weekly meetings and therefore do not have daily huddles on those days. We huddle on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday when we do not have those meetings.
Let’s target Huddles for further discussion. Huddles that are consistently longer than 12 minutes should be a concern. Your Huddles are a chance to announce the last 24-hour victories and next 24-hour focus, plus a cry for help when stuck. This allows quick adjustments - just as weekly meetings allow 13 quick adjustments before quarter end - all aimed at getting the right things done. When teams perform well, coaches will sometimes forego basics to maximize productivity. When teams struggle, it's all about getting back to the basics and performing them well - it's a balance.
Strive for a habit and structure that "forces" open and focused communication. When there is another consistently scheduled meeting of all involved, there is no need to duplicate or create a waste of energy. If you feel your huddles are getting stale, or you're getting push back, experiment but don't completely eliminate huddles. Ask yourself, have you allowed them to go too long, drift out of the huddle lane, involved too many groups or people, or are you forcing huddles on a team with no clear quarterly direction?
Look for ways to experiment in meetings by shining your spotlight on what's important for your team. Don’t forget, the purpose is to stop the boring all-encompassing meeting while getting results.
Here are two examples of efforts I’ve seen to overcome boring meetings.
- Marketing Team – It became obvious in weekly meetings that the team needed to test ideas before implementation. Bill, the leader, decided to keep meeting rhythms in the lane by placing idea testing in a separate meeting. He created a 15-minute Teach Tank Meeting with the marketing team. Marketing team members’ names are drawn from a hat and when chosen, must present their upcoming language or pitch. The remainder of the team gives their first reaction and improvement ideas. Bill later refined this idea by linking his Teach Tank Meeting to marketing deadlines. Upcoming marketing deadline topics and marketing pitch were all that was allowed. This improved delivery on marketing deadlines and a positive attitude of competition to get smarter in marketing.
- Sales Leader – Laura made agreement with another department head to host Sales Stump-day Wednesday (a take off on hump day). These meetings were 20 minutes and designed to build relations across departments, increase company energy, and drive revenue. Laura randomly chose any sales team member, and then the “guest” department leader randomly chose one of their team members to pretend to "call in" as a difficult customer. The results were interesting. The guest department team members began to collaborate on what difficult customers might request, say, or do. This forced them to communicate. The sales team began to collaborate on phrase, language, and possible solutions for difficult customer issues. As a result, sales people were more confident, less stressed, and customer satisfaction in the department rose over 7% in 8 weeks!
Begin to practice the meeting basics of stay in your lane and be practical (not legalistic), and you are well on your way to stop the boring all-encompassing meetings. You can download our meeting facilitation guide here, and begin to align your team, and your meetings, toward common results. Please share your meeting ideas below. Barry