If you’re going to feel confident when you laugh in the face of danger it’s best to have an edge. For those of you seeking new employment in today’s brutal job market, one way you can gain an edge is to subscribe to Manager-Tools.com, a web site with more than 500 free podcasts related to interviewing, career advice, and management. Additionally, they have one of the best online discussion forums outside of any technology product I’ve ever seen.
One of the recent forum posts had to do with meetings and how to make them effective as opposed to the meeting equivalent of a black hole. I’ve been going to meetings for more than three decades. I’ve been in some very bad ones and more than a few very good ones. In my early years of recruiting and training volunteers, I spent many hours sitting through volunteer board and committee meetings. Now as as a senior manager, I spend many hours in employee only staff meetings.
I’m not going to rehash here the great advice Manager Tools (and others) provide. I will repeat one thing my first boss burned into my brain back in 1977 and that I’ve found true of every single meeting since. He said:
If nothing changes as a result of your meeting, you wasted everyone’s time, including your own.
When you absorb this guiding principle into your DNA, two things happen.
- You learn to ask yourself this question at the very beginning when you are planning your meeting. “What do I want to change as a result of this meeting?”You ask this question BEFORE you even think of your first agenda topic.Let’s say you want to sell the meeting attendees on the need for a new initiative. Asking yourself this question means you probably need to visit with each attendee individually well before the meeting to gauge their willingness to buy in. Not just to determine who will support it and who won’t, but how clear your ability is to communicate the new concept. It’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell it. Running the idea past several people will help you refine your message before you get to the meeting itself.The benefit here is that it not only helps you select the right topics but it helps you think through the steps you must take before you get to the meeting thus increasing your chances of success.
- It gives you the courage to cancel a regular scheduled meeting if it’s not an effective use of everyone’s time. Just because you have a monthly conference call or staff meeting doesn’t mean that you have to hold one every time it says so on the calendar. If there’s not a pressing need, cancel the meeting. Ask yourself this, what is the cost, in salary and in lost productivity of needless meetings?
Remember, the question this principle should make you ask is:
What do I want to change as a result of this meeting?
Once you determine that, the next question becomes:
What must I do before the meeting to make that happen?
Followed by asking:
What must happen during the meeting to make that happen?
What must happen after the meeting for that to happen?
Adopt this principle along with other suggestions such as using written agendas, starting and ending on time, etc. and see if you don’t have more effective meetings. When you master the art of effective meetings you’ve got an edge when you laugh in the face of danger.