Here’s a new rule for people who wish to create a meeting: what difference could you make that requires no one’s permission other than your own? Do that first, and don’t call the meeting until you have done that.
What do you think?
“Let’s meet to discuss it”. Black holes. Time sinks. They feel like progress, but they really are avoidance of the real work. The average man spends 4.34 hours each week in meetings, the average woman 2.28. 75% say that these meetings were ineffective.
Imagine a culture of meetings more widespread nor more ineffective than anywhere else in the corporate world – where many employees whose concept of a job is attending meetings. They do nothing except travel to meetings, sit through meetings, plan meetings and complain about having to attend so many meetings. However, they spent so much time in meetings because it is far easier than the alternative of actually taking a decision, justifying it and getting on with implementation. Meetings being used as an escape from personal responsibility.
Rings a bell?
“What difference could you make that requires no one’s permission other than your own?”
The leader’s role is to take the difficult decisions. The meeting’s role is to present that decision and plan execution. The leader’s role is to keep the meeting on track. Anything that does not contribute to refining the decision or executing the decision should be taken offline. Writing side issues up on a big flip chart in the room can be a great way of showing that these side issues have not been ignored, but this is not the time and place to debate them.
If the leader does not know what decision to take, a group meeting will not help. 1-to-1 sessions with affected people, peers, consultants can help the leader shape the criteria for the decision. Often the most powerful tool is a blank sheet of paper and some time alone reflecting and thinking. No meeting should be called without the basic criteria for taking the decision already in place.
Proposal rules for meetings:
Bonus: Amazon Staff Meetings: “No Powerpoint”
Staff meetings at Amazon begin with 30 minutes of silent reading - “We have study hall at the beginning of our meetings” says Jeff Bezos.
“The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a powerpoint presentation, some type of slide show. In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points. This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience. And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a 6 page narrative memo.”
All meetings are structured around a 6-page memo: “When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences, complete paragraphs it forces a deeper clarity.”
Why don’t you read the memos in advance? “Time doesn’t come from nowhere. This way you know everyone has the time. The author gets the nice warm feeling of seeing their hard work being read.”
“If you have a traditional ppt presentation, executives interrupt. If you read the whole 6 page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on page 4 that question is answered.”
And so that is what we do, we just sit and read.
“Think Complex, Speak Simple”
Let me know what you think!
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My name's phil mora and I blog about the things I love: fitness, hacking work, tech and anything holistic.
Head of Digital Product
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