A good meeting sounds like an oxymoron. Meetings are normally not the highlight of the day at the office or at the church. People dread them like a root canal and for good reason. Usually, a lot is said, nothing is decided and very little is done after the meeting is over. Either the meetings need to be cancelled or we need to change the way we do meetings. Let me make four suggestions.
1. Don’t put anything on the agenda that cannot be debated
Patrick Lencioni wrote a classic book on this idea called, “Death by Meeting.” It should be required reading for anyone who leads. Lencioni compares a great meeting to a great movie – both need tension to be awesome. There are lots of rules that need to be made clear before you launch into a meeting filled with debate. First, all debate must be respectful and never become personal. Throw the grenade in the middle of the table, not at one another. Second, no one can be punished for asking the tough questions. Third, the leader of the meeting must encourage input from everyone in the room, not just the three or four strong personalities who love debate. Often the best ideas come from the people in the meeting who actually think before they speak.
2. Start on time and be on time
My time is valuable and so is yours. If there is a meeting at 2pm, the proper time to arrive is 1:55pm. I am not a military dictator, but I do think it is rude to arrive late. It is also bad manners to start a meeting late and to go longer than announced. Start on time, be on time and finish on time.
3. Hold each other accountable for what was decided
Lencioni has another classic book called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” He believes most teams have little or no accountability and I agree. Meetings should produce action steps or resolves. Someone in the meeting must take ownership of each decision and be expected to report on the progress after a reasonable time.
4. Debate in private, support in public
If the team makes a decision that you do not agree with, the time to bring up your concerns is in the meeting and not later while in the break room. To be clear, the leader of the meeting needs to make sure everyone is heard and all the debate has happened before a decision is made. But once that happens, it is required that everyone own the decision and be willing to defend it publicly.
I must confess I have led a lot of sloppy meetings and I’ve attended many that were a complete waste of sunlight. For those on the team at New Life, I ask them to hold me accountable to practice what I blog. I know I will die someday. I just don’t want to die while sitting in a pointless meeting.