Steven G. Rogelberg, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author “The Surprising Science of Meetings,” has thought a lot about meetings, good and bad.
“I think for the longest time organizations just believed bad meetings were the cost of doing business and, therefore, there was no appetite to think about trying to solve it,” he said. “Leaders have finally started to say that we have to have a way to do this better.”
Here are his top tips on how to meet better (or not at all).
1. Don’t have an agenda. Have questions that need to be answered.
If you have a question to answer, not only do you have to really think about why you are gathering, you’ll know if the meeting was successful: You’ll have an answer.
2. Make sure your meeting is about accomplishing concrete work.
Meetings are not about fulfilling a social agenda or building community. Those are byproducts of running effective meetings, because when people have a good meeting experience, they do tend to like one another more. But meetings are about getting something done.
3. Create an executive in charge of meetings.
Even though meetings are some of the most expensive things an organization does, there is usually no executive who has responsibility for them.
Assign someone in leadership to meeting oversight, and encourage leaders to have new conversations with teams about what needs to change. What don’t we need? How do we go about inviting people? How long should our meetings be? Have audits of recurring meetings.
4. Keep meetings as tight as possible.
Data show that teams get more done when they are working against the clock. Given limited time, they focus more than they ordinarily would.
5. Facilitate, don’t dominate.
Research suggests that employees rank the least effective meetings as the ones where the leader does most of the talking. This gets to the root of what is positive about meetings: They are designed to give power to the people.
6. Ask for feedback.
Organizations generally have no process to assess whether their meetings are working. If you look at company engagement surveys, almost all of them have no content about meetings. That becomes a tremendous problem.
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