RANDYGRAM – MEETINGS – PART 1
There is much to discuss about meetings, certainly more than a single post can handle. I don’t hate meetings, but there is vast room for improvement. So this will be the first in an occasional series about meetings and how to make them more useful for participants and for the organization.
Let’s start with defining the various types of meetings. And my point here is to ensure that if you are involved with creating a meeting, that you do so with intent. Think about why you need a meeting, what kind of meeting you will call, who needs to be there, and then, how best to conduct it.
Look through good business reference books and on the internet and you will find that there is plenty of thought about what types of meetings exist, but no consensus. That is fine, each of us can have our own list, as long as we pause to create a particular category of meeting and not just call one without defining it.
Here is a pretty good list I have culled from a variety of sources of many types of meetings:
The primary benefit of defining what kind of meeting to hold is that it helps answer the question: “What are we trying to accomplish?” The second benefit is that by framing the meeting with a category, it will help all attendees to understand both why the meeting is being called and what their role will be. Poorly planned meetings are often mysterious and full of unintended surprises, and that is rarely a path to productivity. Be explicit when you call a meeting about your objective and encourage attendees to be prepared.
The last three types on my list come from Seth Godin who says they are the only types of classic meetings and that meetings are “…marketing in real time with real people.” He is always worth reading.
I should note that while not every conversation between two people is a meeting, there are important meetings that do involve only two people. My weekly and scheduled half hour “Catch-Ups” with direct reports, was an opportunity to review progress and obstacles, raise new issues and ideas, and sometimes for me to just listen and allow the other person to get something that was on their mind, on the table.
The Harvard Business Review also advises us about meetings not to hold. They specifically call out Convenience, Formality and Social meetings. A Convenience meeting would be having the CEO call a large group together to make an announcement, when an email or video link could suffice. A Formality meeting is one that is held each month or quarter simply because it has always been held on that schedule and without regard to whether circumstances make it a good idea. And a Social meeting is one that attaches an agenda and too much structure to what might better be simply called a gathering, team building or the cocktail hour.
So the next time someone says: “We should call a meeting.” ask them: “Why?” and then: “What kind of meeting did you have in mind?”