Let’s face it, most of us deal with unproductive meetings every day. You know the type of meetings I’m talking about:
- When the executives talk more about golf than how to improve profitability
- When you spend an hour figuring out which brand of gluten free hot dog to serve at the summer staff bar-b-q (I’ve actually suffered through that meeting)
- When somebody leaves the meeting every 10 minutes to check their cell phone
- Or how about when you spent 2 hours trying to come up with great new marketing ideas and you realized midway through that nobody in the room knew anything about marketing…
I could go on, but I can feel your meeting pain shooting through your eyeballs as you read this. I think we can agree that you can’t afford unproductive meetings.
Why? Well, they cost too much money, waste valuable time and frustrate your staff (which could make them quit). Too much bad meeting behavior affects your ability to serve you customers at a high level, and ultimately will cost you a lot of money.
But don’t despair! Here are 7 Awesome Meeting Habits That Will Make You Money, based on my experience in running and attending more than 2000 meetings.
Habit #1 – State your strategic objective at the beginning of your meeting
Here’s what will happen when you clearly state your most important strategic objective at the beginning of a meeting:
- It will set the tone for the meeting, and focus everyone’s attention on why you’re all there
- If anyone says something unrelated you can ask “Is what you’re saying right now moving our strategic objective forward?”
- At the end of the meeting, you can re-state the objective then and ask “Did this meeting move our strategic objective forward?” If the answer is yes, then it was a great meeting. If the answer is no, then you’ve got some work to do to make your next meeting more profitable.
For example, take a look at this Key Strategic Objective for Apple:
To ask less of the planet, we ask more of ourselves.
Now, let’s imagine the beginning of a new product development meeting at Apple. The facilitator could say “Throughout this meeting, let’s challenge ourselves to responsibly use Earth’s resources when we talk about developing this new product.”
Then they could conduct their new product discussion, and at the end of the meeting the facilitator could restate the strategic objective and then ask, “Did our discussion honor our commitment to “ask less of the planet?”
If the answer was yes, then it was a profitable meeting that moved this Key Strategic Objective forward. If the answer was no, then that meeting team should have started to make adjustments to ensure that this key concept was reflected in their next product development meeting.
Read next: 10 tips for great meeting minutes
Habit #2 – Figure out the total cost of all the meetings that happen in your organization and CUT the money losers
- Do a complete inventory of all of your meetings
- Assign an average cost-per-meeting
- Determine your total meeting cost.
Now give your CEO a tissue to wipe the tears from their eyes when they realize how much money your organization is wasting on bad meetings…
Here are some cost-per-meeting examples:
#1: A company with 25,000 employees in which each employee attends 100 meetings per year (2 meetings per week) at an estimated cost of $500 per meeting.
- Total meetings = 2,500,000
- Estimated cost per meeting = $500
- TOTAL MEETING COST PER YEAR = $1,250,000,000 (over 1 BILLION!)
#2: A medium sized business with 1000 employees in which each employee attends 50 meetings per year (1 meeting per week) at an estimated cost of $250 per meeting.
- Total meetings = 50,000
- Estimated cost per meeting = $250
- TOTAL MEETING COST PER YEAR = $1,250,000 (over 1 MILLION!)
Can your organization afford to spend this much on meetings?
Now. Estimate what you would like your MROI to be (meeting-return-on-investment). Cut out any meetings that are not giving you a positive MROI. Then create a bonus program that encourages teams to continue to have more profitable meetings.
Habit #3 – Lock the door when the meeting starts
Would you be late for a meeting with your best customer? No. So if you want your meetings to make you more money overall, then treat each person in the meeting like they were your best customer.
So if people are coming in late for meetings, here’s a suggestion.
If your meeting starts at 9AM, then lock the door at 9AM and don’t let the latecomers in.
I learned this technique when I interviewed Larry Schwenneker in episode 8 of the Create Awesome Meetings Podcast. Larry was a Senior Leader in charge of a 500 million dollar portfolio, and his time, like yours, was precious. So, when he chaired a meeting he would lock the door at the appointed meeting start time, and anybody who was late wasn’t allowed in.
One time, his boss was late and stood outside the room pounding on the door to be let in. And guess what happened? Larry didn’t let him in. Guess how often this happened? Once. Because after that, Larry’s boss would show up on time for meetings.
And while it was fun to hear about how much trouble Larry got into for doing this, I also found out that Larry’s boss adopted this technique and started locking the door at his own meetings, to make sure that everyone was respectful of each other’s time.
How much more money would you make if every meeting in your organization started on time?
Read next: Best meeting transcription software
Habit #4 – Fire a bad meeting facilitator right now
Ineffective meetings are led by money-losing meeting leaders who:
- Don’t care about the real cost of bringing people together
- Don’t prepare an agenda
- Allow talkers to take over meetings with unrelated blather
- Don’t have the skills to respectfully manage fights during a meeting which breaks team trust and kills productivity
- Don’t follow up after meetings resulting in no accountability for anyone.
So if this bad meeting leader is wasting your team’s time, how is that helping your customers?
Here’s what you can do to help/fire a bad meeting leader:
Rotate the chair, as in, assign someone else on your team to lead the next meeting. This will give the current meeting leader a chance to learn something new and hopefully they will improve
Immediately send the current leader for facilitation training so they can learn how to run more effective meetings
If they refuse to get training then you should remove the bad meeting facilitator from the meeting forever. This will allow that team to rebuild and move on, and give their meetings an opportunity to become more productive.
Habit #5 – Place unrelated discussions in the ‘parking lot’
One of the best ways to respectfully keep people on track during a meeting is to set up a ‘parking lot’ for unrelated discussions. This is a place on the whiteboard or on the agenda itself where you can record good ideas (that are unrelated to the current meeting) so you can revisit them later.
For example, let’s say you were meeting with your team to review your budget. If somebody started to go off topic to enthusiastically talk about a new service that you could create, which is clearly unrelated to talking about the budget, then the facilitator could gently cut that person off and say something like,
“That is a terrific idea that you’re bringing up, and we would all love to hear more about it. So let’s put it in the ‘parking lot’ for now and then we can come back to it at a later time. And now, let’s get back to the budget discussion.”
When a facilitator does this with confidence, then not only does that person know that they have been heard and that their new idea will eventually be discussed, but everybody else in the meeting will feel that their time is being well used.
Habit #6 – Ask people to challenge ideas during the meeting
With the pace of change these days, status-quo meetings will lose you money. I have to admit that when I worked in the corporate world I often ‘mailed-it-in’ during useless weekly staff meetings.
You know the type of meeting that I’m talking about, where it’s all about updates and people talking about what they did on the weekend, instead of actually making decisions that move the company forward and ultimately serve your customers.
So, to avoid status quo meetings, the facilitator should occasionally interject and say, “Can anyone disagree with or improve what we just talked about? Because if we can’t, why did this item get onto the agenda in the first place?” This will set a tone of high trust for the meeting and allow people to openly share their best insights.
Habit #7 – Treat every person in your meeting like they were your best customer
If you’re not treating everyone in your meeting like they were your best customer, then you’re leaving money on the floor. So, at the beginning of your next meeting you should make a list of the ‘Top 5 Ways That We Treat Our Best Customers’.
Here are a few suggestions to get your list started:
- We don’t interrupt when the customer is talking, so why do we interrupt each other?
- I don’t look at my cell phone when I’m with a customer, so why do I look at it during a meeting?
- I follow up fast after every customer meeting, so why do I not follow up effectively after our meetings?
- I have all the information my customers need when I speak with them, so why did I come to this team meeting unprepared?
- I’m never late for a customer meeting, so why was I late for this meeting?
Awesome meeting habits summary
- State your most important strategic objective out loud at the beginning of your meeting
- Figure out your organizations total meeting cost and cut the money losing meetings
- Lock the door when the meeting starts
- Fire a bad meeting facilitator right now
- Place unrelated discussions in the ‘Parking Lot’
- Ask your team to challenge ideas during the meeting
- Treat every person in your meeting like they were your best customer
Now that you know what to do, your biggest challenge is implementation. To help you get the ball rolling here are few reasons that have inspired other teams to improve their meeting culture.
- We want to earn more money by improving our MROI (meeting-return-on-investment)
- We want to become more efficient by getting rid of money-sucking meetings
- We want to make our organization workplace of choice for top talent and one of the best ways that we can do this is by demonstrating that we have the most efficient, innovative and enjoyable meetings
Are you ready to put at least one of these habits into action to turn your meetings into a competitive advantage? Do you want to serve your customers at a higher level? Do you want your company to make more money?
Now it’s up to you…
Many thanks to Gord for letting me republish this article from his website – Elizabeth
A version of this article first appeared on this website in 2017.
This article first appeared at Rebel’s Guide to Project Management