And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Meetings. If you’re ready to click off—you might miss out on the surprise at the end of this post.
I’ve never worked for a company or a nonprofit that had a general opinion about meetings, and most of the time, it’s that meetings are a waste of time. Most ask, are meetings even necessary?
Perhaps it’s not that they are a waste of time, but time used ineffectively. If that is the case, some good facilitation can save people from the inefficiency of meetings.
It’s like a good party: When you’ve been in a meeting that was well executed, you know it. You can’t always name what made it good, but you know that it was good.
For about a year, I dug into what made good meetings good. I still haven’t quite found the secret sauce, but I have found a few secret ingredients I’d like to share with you:
- An agenda—with time allotted for each topic—can work wonders for a meeting. It may seem outdated or “too corporate” for you or your work. Think about it this way: it’s the practice of living a disciplined life that gets us closer to where we want to be. An agenda does the same thing at work. Consider the topics that must be discussed. Post it in the calendar invite, or state it at the beginning. Give people a sense of what to expect. You may have had a college professor say something similar to you in the past: Say what you are going to say, say it, and then say what you’ve said. It may seem obvious to you, but it won’t be to those you are speaking to.
- On your agenda, leave 5-10 minutes at the end for the next steps. It never fails to surprise me when someone offers to tackle a project or handle a task, and then when you ask them about it later, they balk and hem and haw and deny saying “yes.” The time at the end is to re-state who is doing what by when—and for them to give permission for you to hold them accountable to it later.
- Give ground rules. My favorite is, as the leader or facilitator, to say, “Do I have everyone’s permission to bring us back to the topic at hand if we find ourselves uncovering something to talk about later?” Most nod their heads, but in practice during the meeting, this one is hard. People get passionate about what they are emotionally connected to—their work. Sometimes there’s one or two people in the crowd that pontificate on the same topic in every meeting. No matter why they keep on keeping on, the agreement at the beginning of the meeting to stay on topic helps navigate away from rabbit trails and makes for a more productive meeting. Oftentimes, I’ll say, “That’s a great topic for another time. I’ll write it down in our ‘parking lot’ area so that it’s not forgotten.” And, then incorporate it into a more appropriate meeting or create a meeting to tackle that topic. I’m a big fan of parking lots and ground rules.
These three are simple to try, but complex to make into habits. Consistency is the key—if you do these three in every meeting you facilitate, you’ll find people come to expect it of you. They’ll prefer your meetings to others.
There’s one more bonus key that unlocks effective meetings—encouragement. You may have heard the quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Encouraging people to keep going, to build energy and motivation toward the next step can help people see meetings in a new light. When the lingering feeling is encouragement, people are more likely to enjoy your productive meetings.
So, back to the question, are meetings necessary? Hebrews 10 seems to indicate it’s okay to keep meetings. Most people apply these verses to church and it’s a legitimate application. Perhaps there is space for meetings to occur at work and in the community. If done properly, people will leave being encouraged. Habitual practices in meetings will help you and your organization be better. And double points if they are regularly scheduled meetings with agendas! Be in the habit of hosting good meetings, and you’ll find the complaints about meetings decline.
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© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.