We all know forming habits take practice. Kids learn early how to say “thank you,” hold their pencils and crayons in a “tripod” hold, and brush their teeth to the point they don’t think twice about those actions later in life. Bad habits, however, are like the dark side of each of us and are much more difficult to rescue and change for the good.
Similarly, bad meeting habits can form easily among an organization but when transforming a company with better meeting habits, it is possible to infiltrate even the messiest meeting culture. Here are a few meeting habits many companies have accepted as a norm and how you can help to change to make meetings more efficient using effective meeting strategies.
When Leaders Become Entertainers
Most of us have experienced a meeting where a leader goes through a list of updates and awkwardly fills the meeting time. Sadly, the guests may have other priorities or concerns and the time is not spent on what is important or helpful to keep the team moving forward. A meeting that is primarily one person telling information rather than asking a question is a presentation.
Leaders: Have team members propose topics prior to the meeting and lean on them to present so the team helps to establish meaningful agenda templates together. While you can always share updates, keep them brief and use the majority of the time to focus on what the team feels is important. If you do not agree with what they find important, use this as an opportunity to learn and direct on what is and why to create clarity and alignment.
Guests: Be prepared to help lead and participate. While it may not be appropriate during a meeting, if you feel the time would be spent better in other ways, share this with your manager/meeting leader and find a way to use the time better.
When Facilitators Take All the Notes
If you reflect on each meeting you have, think about who in the room is taking notes. You will most likely identify one or two people in a given meeting who are habitually the note-takers. Many times, this is left to the facilitator or the person who feels responsible to scribe. It takes a lot of work to run the meeting, engage guests, ask questions, and adequately record notes, decisions, and actions. And many times, the person leading or taking notes is not necessarily the subject matter expert (SME) so what they captured as well as it could be.
Leaders: Establish roles in meetings prior to or at the beginning of a meeting to share in the responsibility or, even better, when someone answers a question or is assigned a task, ask them to take down the note or action in your established meeting minutes templates as they would know best what to write.
Guests: Help ensure what you heard is what everyone else heard and add to a collaborative note-taking space to share the outcomes you recorded from the meeting. Before you leave the meeting, take a few minutes to discuss the final outcomes and record these with owners and dates to ensure visibility and accountability.
When Tardiness Has a Domino Effect
Given those in leadership roles tend to be in back-to-back meetings which result in tardiness at some point throughout the day, this can have a huge, negative effect on others. Other meeting guests start to see the trend and take on the attitude, if a leader is late, why should I be on time? Tardiness is the meeting equivalent of a traffic jam. When one person hits their brakes, it escalates to everyone behind them. In a company, your tardiness may appear to impact only one of your meetings, but it can affect everyone else’s meetings, internal and external, as well.
Leaders: Set an example and be on time for your meetings. If that means catching an earlier train or ending the previous meeting 5 minutes early, start putting change into practice. If guests know you are always on time or early, they will feel the push to do the same.
Guests: If leaders are habitually late, help drive readiness by being present and ready for the meeting. If they see they are keeping everyone else from being productive, they will eventually feel the pressure and work harder to be present.
When a Topic Is Not Solvable
There are those meetings where a topic is brought up that either does not have a clear answer or the people who are best to address the topic are not in the room. Instead of recognizing this, the conversation continues and takes away from other topics or work time.
Leaders: Strike a balance between letting people have open thought and dialogue and when there isn’t any more to discuss.
Guests: Share your points and suggest another discussion with the right people or information at a later time.
When Recurring Meetings Don’t Need to Be So Reoccurring
Many of us have experienced meeting just to meet. Because time can be difficult to find on calendars, it becomes a habit to schedule a recurring meeting to secure time with a team. But there can be occasions when meeting the entire time, or at all, is necessary.
Leaders: Plan ahead, before schedules fill up, and shift recurring meetings to shake things up. Go back to the top point and try to build agendas collaboratively with the team in a tool like Docket to avoid having a meeting without purpose.
Guests: Be flexible to have recurring meetings as needed and not to have just to have. Help create agendas and build the next wave of discussion points in advance so leaders can gauge when it is time to have a meeting.
Turning bad meeting habits to good can take a little work in the beginning but if you identify with any of these situations from either side, pick one and start naturally influencing others with the more positive meeting behavior.