Effective meetings: The rules

How many times have you been invited to a meeting you found was wasting your most precious resource, your time? People hate meetings, really hate them, because they can be ineffective, time hog, and pointless. But what if we could change that, and make our meetings effective, helpful and focused? Wouldn’t that be nice?

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They are two types of meetings in the world

Content meetings are business meetings where you make decisions. People meetings are meetings like 1:1 with your direct reports or skip meetings you hold with your indirect reports, one level down.

I hereby present you with my own rules for effective meetings:

Content Meetings

Rule #1: ¡No MAS!

MAS stands for Mindless Accept Syndrome. That happens when you accept every meeting without knowing why you should be there. Remember, your time is the only resource you can’t create more of. David Grady gave a great TED talk on the subject back in 2013.

Rule #2: No Agenda, No Attenda

If you are invited to a meeting, but do not know why you should be there, ask. Ask why your presence will help, ask what is the agenda, ask what are we trying to achieve by having the meeting, and ask if we must have it, or we can get to the same conclusion by other means of communication. If no agenda is provided by the person inviting you, simply clearly state before the meeting you will not be able to join.

Rule #3: Be on time, and stick to time

In the case you found the meeting is needed and you would like to join it, [be on time](http://Running Effective Marketing Meetings). When you are late, you are wasting other peoples time, and require repeating things that were already said just for you. In addition, if the habit around you is to be late, set an example. Be on time, and start your meetings just on time. Of course, finish them on time as well, if you find it hard to get to a conclusion, present the data you have until that point, and call for a follow up.

Rule #4: Find your actionable, and leave

In the meeting, try to find out as soon as possible the reason you are needed, and try to get the action items relevant for you early on as possible in the meeting. Once you know what is expected from you to deliver and when, write it down, thank everyone, and leave. Sitting in a meeting that moved to another subject irrelevant to you is a waste of your time. Although the common belief is that it is rude to leave meetings you are no longer required for, I concur that, and think it can save a lot of time for everybody if it became common.

People Meetings

Rule #1: No miss!

1:1 and skip meetings are mostly effective because they are predictable, reoccurring meetings, where the voice is mostly the direct report’s voice. If it is not predictable when the meeting will be held it harms the idea of giving the space to your people and undermines the trust you build between both of you. In addition, it seems like you have ‘more important’ things than the meeting, and that is a bad signal.

Rule #2: No Agenda on my part

I come to listen, not to talk. The people meeting is for the person reporting to me to share their views, concerns, questions and issues. I will be listening, and replying when asked. It is not my meeting basically, it is the meeting of my direct report. If I would come with an agenda, it will quickly turn into my meeting, with asking for delivery, and timelines. This is not this type of meeting.

Rule #3: Be on time, and stick to time

Obviously this rule remains intact. I will not dwell on how important this is in the context of a 1:1 with someone.

Rule #4: Listen carefully and take an actionable

When you hold a 1:1 with someone, it is likely they will surface some item you might need to act on at some point. Write it down as an actionable for a future meeting or other timeline or venue, but do not drop it. If you are requested for something, do not commit on the spot, write it down, and respond later. The same goes for any action you might need to take as an outcome of the meeting. If you drop your actions, it will show, and you will harm the trust between you and the person you had a meeting with.

Those are my rules. They might differ from culture to culture, from company to company, but the basics stand. I think you can find the mix that will work for you, and adopt what you find suites you best. The main idea to bear in mind is that your time is the most valuable asset you bring with you, and no one should decide for you what you should do with your time. If you want to have impact and be effective you must start by controlling your time, what you spend it on, and by extension, what are your priorities, and where they lie.

Bonus — what would happen if conference calls would be in real life:

Originally published at https://www.matanyamos.es on April 28, 2019.

People, Process, Tooling