Success is not the result of a single action. It comes from a series of decisions, choices, and actions, it comes from consistently performing well, it may grow out of messy mistakes, and it certainly sometimes gets help from happy accidents along the way. This is true in life; it is also true of meetings.
Relying on accidental success is a questionable approach—which is also true in life and meetings. Instead, embrace happy accidents when they occur, but use these questions to engineer successful meetings.
Here is a riddle: What happens in a meeting when the right people aren’t there? The answer: Nothing—other than reinforcing the stereotype that meetings are a waste of time.
The meetings you want to be known for—inspiring, engaging, results-driven—require having the right people in them. This is a basic premise for meeting effectiveness but one that is commonly violated. To have the right people in the room, you need to shift your approach to extending invitations. Two common extremes are inviting everyone you can think of or attempting to fly beneath the radar by inviting as few as you can.
This really happened to a colleague. I am willing to wager that it has also happened to you or someone you know…
A newly hired senior vice president called a staff meeting to update her team on revisions to a mission-critical standard operating procedure (SOP) affecting the group’s work. A few weeks later, she confided her frustration with her staff to her executive coach: “I don’t get this place! Two weeks ago, I brought the whole team together to share this update. No one wrote a thing down or even brought a pen and pad. No one asked any questions either—I’m not even sure they were listening to me. And then, this morning, one of them sent a group email saying the process that had been in place—the one I updated them on—no longer works and needs to be revised. To make matters worse, two staff replied in agreement saying they experienced the same thing. I feel like I might lose my mind.”
It would be convenient if one-on-one meetings were somehow exempt from disruptions caused by the two participants. In reality, they aren’t. Whether pleasant conversations with people whose company you enjoy or tense conversations, one-on-one meetings can require you to manage disruptions.
Reality Check: Do you approach one-on-one meetings expecting an easy flow from one agenda item to the next? If so, read on…
Meetings that lack participation can be awkward and uncomfortable—such as those characterized by the leader who asks a question and when he gets no responses, quickly fills the void with “OK, well here is what I was thinking….” At the opposite extreme, meetings in which participants dominate, ramble, negate everything, introduce tangents, or “participate” in other counterproductive ways can be as or even more painful to experience.
Yes, you want participation—but not all participation is created equally. If you expect people to automatically participate productively in response to “I’d like to have everyone’s participation today,” you will likely be disappointed. Instead, use this 4-step process: