“If we hate meetings, can we be making good decisions and successfully leading our organisations? I don’t think so. There is simply no substitute for a good meeting – a dynamic, passionate, and focused engagement – when it comes to extracting the collective wisdom of a team.”
– Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni
Pat Lencioni purports that there is no substitute for a good meeting, and hopefully more of us would resonate with that sentiment. For a meeting where all attendees contribute, analyse, debate, resulting in a great decision.
We also agree with Frederic Laloux when he says that ‘organisations are vehicles for human collaboration’. And it’s often through meetings, where two or more individuals come together to discuss various topics, when this collaboration happens.
But meetings have developed a bad reputation over the years – there are too many, they are not productive, or it’s seen as a form of procrastination. These are just a few of the long list of things wrong with the way we conduct meetings.
So we have a tension that needs to be solved. We believe that meetings are essential in running a successful organisation. But we also recognise the issues with how meetings are conducted in organisations these days.
What if, instead of asking how we can have fewer meetings, we ask how we can make each meeting as effective as possible?
Why meetings are valuable
To understand how to make meetings as effective as possible, we have to understand why we meet. And there’s a range of reasons. Through our experience of facilitating hundreds of meetings with clients, we’ve distilled it into four common reasons:
- They facilitate better decisions
When we come together to brainstorm, we share ideas and build off each other’s ideas. The strength of a group is in diversity, in the ability to hear different opinions and follow the collective’s wisdom. Having the right individuals in the meeting will also assist in having the right information available and different perspectives covered. While this can be done via alternative communication, there is a benefit to a real-time, energetic, robust debate with the necessary input.
- They increase efficiency
Back-and-forth written communication can take extra effort, cause misunderstandings, waste time as you need to refocus each time you respond, etc. In contrast, a well-structured and engaging meeting can often save time. There is also clearer communication, fewer interruptions, and more attentive participants. The caveat – meetings can be inefficient if not planned well, there is no objective, too many participants, and participants aren’t engaged or prepared.
- They build stronger relationships
Whether virtual or in-person, personal interactions help build deeper bonds. There is a person behind the words, there is a free-flowing exchange of ideas and there is space for informal small talk. This helps builds connections and trust.
- They drive employee engagement
When people are part of the meeting, part of the debate, and part of the decision-making process, they are more likely to buy into the decision. Hopefully, they have been able to contribute and be heard in the meeting, and so feel that they have given their input and understand why a decision has been made.
In Death by Meeting, Pat Lencioni compares the average length of a film to the length of a meeting. In approximately 90 minutes, a movie can tell you a story that travels across many countries over many years, unpacks complex issues, and gets you to a satisfying ending.
In a meeting that lasts as long as the average film, how much do we achieve? How much can we achieve?
We’re not saying that meetings should be rushed or crammed. This could lead to bad decisions. Instead, we’re suggesting a shift in mindset around meetings. Meetings can be powerful when set up for a specific purpose when structured correctly, and when everyone is engaged. Meetings can get you to great decisions and help you lead your organisations to new heights. They can help build a strong, cohesive, and effective team.
Ask yourself ‘How can I make this meeting meaningful?’. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with more meetings in your diary.
If you have questions, we’re always keen for coffee.
Get in touch so that we can brainstorm a few solutions together!