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Transform your deathly boring meetings into compelling and profitable meetings…
Have you ever been in a meeting that felt unproductive and wasteful?
How does such a meeting make you feel – disappointed, frustrated, demoralised?
Most people feel this way about most internal meetings, according to the research. And like rust on your car, one mediocre meeting after another quietly eats away at your business.
According to a 3M Meeting Network survey of managers, 25-50 percent of the time people spend in meetings is wasted.
Allow such wasteful meetings to prevail and you’ll always feel that your business is missing out on the performance and results it could and should have.
Time to improve the way your meetings work?
“…improving meetings is not just an opportunity to enhance the performance of companies. It is also a way to positively impact the lives of our people.” – Patrick Lencioni (author of Death by Meeting)
Internal meetings happen every week in most businesses – what an opportunity to improve your results every week!
If managers participate in up to 15 meetings a week, like the research suggests, then better meetings could and should bring you a better, more successful business.
In a nutshell
Run your internal meetings so that bold decisions happen often and quickly. Then ensure that your decisions are supported by your people.
Love to hate meetings...
“The most justifiable reason to loathe meetings is that they don’t contribute to the success of our organisations.” - Lencioni
Although people love to complain publicly about meetings, the research is inconclusive as to how many meetings are wasteful (see the downloadable tools for more on this).
And yet so many…
“Bad meetings… generate real human suffering in the form of anger, lethargy, and cynicism.” - Lencioni
What is clear is that your business can improve performance when internal meetings improve. So, what really matters is that you run productive and successful meetings in your business.
Meetings happen too often to ignore.
Here's the proven solution for you...
Great movies start with conflict. For meetings to be truly useful, meetings must also encourage constructive conflict as well as collaboration.
The outcome of a successful meeting is a good decision and an action plan that generates movement and momentum towards your business success.
Most meetings could do with more razzamataz!
How could anybody relish an activity that is mostly passive and irrelevant to them?
Well millions do, and an industry worth £38billion a year relies on such passive and irrelevant activity.
At the movies you, me and the world’s cinema goers are passive…
…for two hours or more. And movie content is mostly irrelevant. More on James Bond and the Deepwater Horizon movies shortly! Whereas, at work, you can actively participate in meetings and the content is profoundly relevant!
So what can you learn from the movies so that your internal meetings no longer strangle or derail your business?
Decision 1st, meeting 2nd…
STOP thinking that meetings result in decisions
START making a decision first. Use the meeting to generate healthy, constructive debate and then collaboration and action plans.
Before we get to the conflict and collaboration, let’s make a decision.
In his book ‘Read This Before Our Next Meeting’ Al Pittampalli makes a strong case for putting the decision first, meeting second. Or even no meeting.
“We assume that somehow the meeting will make the decision. It never does. Meetings can’t make decisions; only leaders can.”
Pittampalli then suggests three grades of decision:
- Decisions of no consequence
- Decisions of low consequence
- Decisions of mid to high consequence
1. No consequence decisions
If a decision causes no impact to the people or the business, then simply make the decision without a meeting.
“Every inconsequential decision that is made quickly without fuss is a shot of adrenaline straight into the heart of our organisation.”
A meeting about the decision is unnecessary and just slows things down.
2. Low consequence decisions
Low consequence decisions require very little debate but may well need collaboration to get the support from your team. If you’re calling a meeting for low consequence decisions then:
For lower consequence decisions Pittampalli recommends the following meeting process:
a) Inform meeting attendees of your decision and reasoning in advance of the meeting (saves meeting time)
b) In the meeting, allow attendees to ask questions, voice concerns, propose modifications to get buy-in
c) You also ask questions that propel things towards action
Explain and resolve the decision as quickly as possible, so that you can get onto implementation and collaboration - an action plan is your primary tangible outcome for low consequence meetings.
3. What about when the stakes are higher?
Higher stakes means higher risks...
For higher consequence decisions you’re less focused on speed, more on the quality of the decision. When the stakes are higher your focus is on robust and honest debate – constructive conflict is your friend. Collaboration comes later.
Avoid catastrophe, nurture conflict...
When you’re making high-stakes decisions you DON’T want meetings that seek immediate approval. You DO want healthy debate.
But most people shy away from conflict in meetings. Because it feels uncomfortable, conflict is mostly avoided. And that’s risky.
How risky? Watch the 2016 movie ‘Deepwater Horizon’ with Mark Wahlberg.
In April 2010, 11 people died and the worst oil spill in history devastated the Gulf of Mexico because of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. BP were required to pay $60billion in fines and compensation.
The research into disasters like Deepwater Horizon and the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion in 1986 points to something called ‘normalisation of deviance’.
A culture of over-confidence results in decisions and meetings without sufficient debate or conflict – BP and NASA forgot to be afraid.
In their books both Lencioni and Pittampalli make a strong case for more conflict in high-stakes meetings.
For your high-stakes decisions seek conflict. Encourage debate. Praise disagreement when you see it. It’s healthy and makes for better decisions and better meetings.
Movie magic comes from conflict...
By emphasising the issues, challenges and risks you bring drama to your meetings too. So share the risks and challenges up front at the start of your meetings – just like conflict shows up at the start of a great movie.
Think about the start of every James Bond movie. In the movie ‘Spectre’, Daniel Craig joins the day of the dead parade in Mexico City, he survives a ‘conflict’ in a helicopter and then ends up in ‘conflict’ with ‘M’ played by Ralph Fiennes!
Conflict and the resolution of conflict makes movies (and meetings) compelling!
Pittampalli suggests the following meeting process for high-stakes meetings:
- Hold off sharing your preliminary decision – share the issue only. You then avoid ‘groupthink’ that naturally supports your decision (remember people mostly want to avoid conflict)
- Before you share your decision, get attendees to share their thoughts on the issue (ideally before the meeting)
- During the meeting reveal your decision and invite disagreement
- If disagreement doesn’t happen then provoke debate using questions (see the downloadable tools for example questions)
- After robust debate, seek agreement by eliminating weak options first, then choosing from the best remaining options
- If no agreement or consensus is forthcoming, you make the decision yourself
This will increase the likelihood of a good decision and avoid catastrophic decisions and actions, or indeed no decision and no actions.
You get great meetings, great decisions and buy-in from your people too.
4 helping hands for you…
Internal meetings should be designed to help you make or implement decisions. But remember, meetings do not make decisions, it’s you, the leader who makes the decision. The tone and structure of your meetings depends upon the level of importance, impact or consequence of your decision.
Before you organise a meeting, decide whether you’re taking an inconsequential, low or higher level impact decision
If your decision is inconsequential and of NO impact, simply make the decision and communicate it to your people without a meeting
For LOW level impact decisions, focus on buy-in, speed and action-planning in your meeting
For HIGHER level impact decisions focus first on creating genuine debate and conflict in your meeting, then generate collaboration.
TIME TO DISAGREE
“Meetings are at best a necessary evil, why should we invest more time and energy in them than we do already?”
Good decisions, whether they’re low, mid or high consequence decisions, need implementing.
And because you need others to support your decision and implement the actions, you will end up in a meeting.
And because meetings happen every week in every business, you could easily undermine the results of your business with bad meetings.
“Can’t we just do without meetings if people dislike them so much?”
Because you want your business to succeed, you want to make great decisions and have wholehearted support from your people.
This makes conflict and collaboration essential to meeting management.
Making decisions first puts leaders, quite rightly, in the hot seat. Making meetings compelling through a focus on either collaboration or conflict sets you up for greater meeting success.
But remember, decide first, meet second.
“How do I know if a decision is of low, mid or high consequence?”
What’s clear is, if you grade every decision as high consequence, then no decision will be seen as high importance.
Trial and error is the best answer. You and your people could look at a series of recent decisions and agree together about which are low, medium or high consequence decisions.
This can guide your thinking.
“How do I know that a decision first, meeting second approach will deliver better results for my business?”
Without a decision having been made, a meeting is simply a ‘talking shop’ – it’s like a boat sailing along without a rudder. Test the decision first, meeting second process and see if it changes the tone of the meeting and the tangible outcome of the meeting too.
Meetings that result in conflict and collaboration will always prove to be valuable
Both Pittampalli and Lencioni, in their books, recommend the need for conflict and debate to make internal meetings compelling. Conflict and resolution of conflict makes movies compelling. Sharing the issues or challenges either before or during the meeting sets you up for a high-conflict discussion that will rarely be wasteful and will, like the movies, be engaging and maybe even compelling.
As leader, take responsibility for making the decision before allowing a meeting
Meetings don’t make decisions, leaders make decisions.
Next decide the level of impact the decision will make
Is the decision inconsequential, of low consequence (low-impact), or of high consequence (high-impact)? This will determine what happens next.
For inconsequential decisions, avoid a meeting
When a decision has no or very low impact on other people or the business as a whole, why have a meeting? Simply make the decision and make it happen. No need to generate debate or collaboration.
For low-level impact decisions focus on action agreement and planning
Share your decision, share your understanding of the issues and seek lots of collaboration on the actions.
For higher-level impact decisions focus on creating healthy debate and conflict
When the stakes are high, the quality of the decision matters the most, so make your decision but keep it to yourself to start with.
Share the issues at stake and, like the movies do, you’ll then create a high-energy and compelling meeting that helps ensure you’ve made the highest quality decision. Follow this conflict meeting with a collaboration meeting to coordinate actions and people’s participation.
“Please tell me more”
Death by meeting
The fable you’ll find in the Patrick Lencioni book will inspire you to create structure in your meetings.
Lencioni puts a very strong case for 4 different styles of meetings to ensure you stay on track.
How we can get more done
You can read and absorb Al Pittampalli’s book in just one sitting – it’s just 70 small pages long. But it’s packed with practical insights into running great meetings and making great decisions.
You’ll also find more insights, exercises and resources by checking out the downloadable tools that come with this edition of Business Bitesize.
YOUR SUPPORT TOOLS ARE HERE:
Go to the link below and you'll find a selection of practical support tools to help you get a deeper understanding and develop greater skills for meeting management success.
Find the support tools to help you
This report is shared by Paul Shrimpling, Managing Director
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