Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Great Meeting

Good leaders can create purpose, direction, and inspiration which cause exceptional results.  I was attending a meeting out of the office, so one of my key leaders, Jen, ran our Weekly Sales Meeting.  Given the economic times and our goal to be a great team, our leadership group has been studying models of organizations with extraordinary cultures.  Confident our recent leadership conversations had improved the effectiveness of our sales meeting, I checked with Jen. Here was our conversation.

I asked Jen, “How was the meeting?”


“Really? What happened?”
“We really had good energy and got along really well.”

“What was different?”  I asked.

“I think it helped that you weren’t there?”

Here was the important moment in our conversation.  The next question I asked created the possibility for improvement.

“Do you think I would have thought the meeting was great?”

Jen paused and considered.

She exhaled audibly.  “No.”

“Why not?”  I asked.

“We didn’t solve the important problems.  We didn’t cause our goals to happen.  We didn’t make much progress.  But we…”

“Got along well.”  I finished.


To be fair, I’ve known and worked with Jen for twenty years.  She is smart, committed to our team, and extremely confident.  She is a leader who can handle tough questions and she knows how to be a leader that causes great results.

“What was difference between our meetings?” I asked. 

“I didn’t ask the hard questions.  I didn’t put anyone on the spot. I didn’t address the real problems. We didn’t really make any progress.”

She was right.

It is difficult and uncomfortable to look at results, determine the causes, create new plans, and ask for commitment.  It’s also necessary for progress.  So the leadership challenge is to understand, given the situation, the group, and the goals, how to create a positive environment for progress.  Here are some ideas to improve your chances for success.

Know what you need to cause.  You must be clear about the objective if you want others to be. If you are clear about the objective, others can be.  Don’t come to a meeting unprepared - don’t wing it.  Know what needs to happen before the meeting and get the right people, with the right information, and create an environment for progress. People don’t hate meetings. They hate meetings that waste time.

Let people know what you want to cause when you come together.  Here is my mantra -  I want to have meetings when we need to solve problems that require a collective understanding of a situation and collective problems solving skills.  I expect people to come prepared and focused.  Consequently, necessary, timely and accurate information must be distributed before the meeting.  Bring a good attitude and wear your creativity hat.  I want my meetings to be crisp and meaningful; our time together must propel the organization forward.  Make sure people understand what you want.

State your intentions for your time together.  Let the team know your goals, and expectations for the meeting.  Focus the conversations and don’t stray from your objectives.  Encourage and nurture the conversations that are contributing to the objectives.  Seek problems and solve problems.  If you get mired in a dilemma or situation that will require lengthy consideration or discussion – take it off line. Be relentless in the pursuit of your meeting objectives.

If a team member has an individual performance issue, don’t solve it in a group setting.  If you know something is wrong before the meeting, don’t prove it during the meeting.  Address individual performance issues in the smallest possible group.  Being accountable to a group is difficult for people, so don’t make it harder than it has to be. If you seek to enhance the dignity of your team members, they will trust you.

Encourage candor.  Tell the team and show the team that you want and need to understand what they think and what they know.  Both are necessary to create an accurate assessment of the situation.  Encourage the team to voice their concerns and point to problems and give them the responsibility to bring possibilities and solutions as well.  You won’t always like what you hear, but you need to hear it.  Don’t kill the messengers.  Be poised in the face of bad news or disappointing revelations.  Create an environment where people can be heard and where they know they matter.

Winston Churchill said, “Action this day.”  Make something positive happen.  End and start each meeting with an action list. The list should detail who is doing what and by when.  Look at the list before you conclude the meeting and ask yourself, Did this action list meet my objectives and intentions of the meeting?  Does this list improve the organization?

Lead by example.  This is easy to say and hard to do.  Keep it simple.  Be prepared.  Be as accountable to the group as they are to you.  Be respectful.  Be focused.  Be attentive to the goals.  Be the one; be the example.  Create purpose, direction, and inspiration.

If you want something to be special, it takes consideration, preparation, and focus. Take the time to be great – it’s worth the effort.

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