We’ve all been there, or maybe still are – another meeting to keep you from doing what it is you really need to be doing. So what can you do about it? Meetings are a fact of life, especially in the business world. There are ample resources on the web and in book stores that speak to running “good” meetings. Most offer pretty good advice, but most focus on process rather than outcome. To me a successful meeting (successful vs. good) is one that does what it is intended to do, regardless of the process used.
I’m betting at some time or another we’ve all attended a well-structured and facilitated the meeting. You know, the kind that has a written agenda and opens with “we are here today to discuss…” Meetings like that are great in that they feel productive and are probably on time, etc… but, are they successful?
Then there are those meetings where you jumped right into the business of the meeting. My guess is most of them start that way. The group talks about of lot of things, maybe even generates a few new ideas or develops some resolutions, but was it a successful meeting?
The challenge with most meetings is that everyone sits down and assumes that everyone knows, and agrees on, what the outcome(s) of the meeting should be. The outcomes are what speaks to success, not the process.
Moving from Good to Successful
So how do you ensure successful meetings? It’s actually kind of simple – do the Covey thing! “Begin with the end in mind.” Ensure that you or someone asks – “What do we need to get out of this meeting?” It really is that simple. By doing that you give yourself two things. First you now have the ability to filter the conversation. When topics come up that are not directly related to the intended outcome, then you simply put the topic in a parking lot (another best practice) and move back on track. Most importantly, running meetings with this mindset gives you the ability to measure how effective the meeting was which can ensure that you don’t keep meeting on the same topics or rehashing the same things under the guise of a new topic.
Simply put (which is how I think), successful meetings are outcome-oriented and getting through the agenda is NOT the outcome we’re after.
So in your next meeting, make sure that someone (which could mean you) asks, “what should the outcome of this meeting be today”!
It really is pretty simple, just not always easy!