“2020” Hindsight: Meeting Effectiveness

Like many career people, I’m managing a calendar full of meetings. While it’s been awhile since my days were full of coffee meetings, client lunches and in-person speaking engagements, the number of Zoom and Teams calls on my calendar has increased tenfold. Understandably, not everyone is ready to sit across the table from someone else. I tend to believe the impact of the COVID pandemic has helped us to re-evaluate what needs to be a phone call, a Zoom, or an actual in-person event. And, it may sounds crazy, but 2020 really improved our meeting effectiveness.

When everyone packed up their desks and went home last March, many folks had to quickly divide their attention between distance learning for children, work, personal responsibilities, family, friends, etc. With all of these forces fighting for our attention (and energy), we had no choice but to better prioritize our time. As a result, important meetings happened via Zoom, lower priority check-ins became Teams chats, and what would have been a brief face-to-face conversation found itself in the subject line of an email. We shifted our “need” for meetings because we had so many other things demanding our energy.

So now that we’re headed back into work, actually leaving our home for at least a day or two a week, I wanted to share some ideas to maintain our new, individually-determined meeting effectiveness policy to make the most of our interactions.

 

STATE YOUR PURPOSE

Remember when we all sat around conference room tables and participated in what many would describe as “death by meeting”? Over time, we’ve learned how much a single meeting agenda can help and, since COVID sent us all packing, we’ve gotten better at sharing it sooner along with a meeting mission statement. Unlike before, when we would chat off the cuff in the office about a topic and decide to have a meeting to dig deeper, topics are now bubbling up for individual team members within the physical silos they have been working in.

Two years ago, we’d have a fly-by conversation on whether employees were “giving their all” and subsequently get a meeting invite that would look something like this:

meeting effectiveness example 1

In 2020, however, we didn’t have the luxury of those ad hoc interactions and so we became more explicit and intentional, starting to see invites like this in our inbox:

meeting effectiveness example 2

Which meeting description do you like better? I’d prefer the latter and I know I’m not alone.

RECOMMENDATION

Be crystal clear when setting the goals of your meeting and your expectations of the attendees. This will help them immediately start thinking of ideas and make the meeting far more productive. And challenge your team to ask for agendas and context before accepting a meeting request and you’ll find you will ALL be better for it.

 

INVITE THE RIGHT EXPERTS

“I’ll add you to the invite so you know what’s up!” was a common theme pre-2020. I’d then accept out of courtesy or a perceived obligation and would find myself at a conference table with 10-12 of my peers, never once uttering a word because the topic didn’t actually concern me. Furthermore, with so many voices, we often had to schedule a second meeting on the heels of the first meeting to discuss further.

However, last year, as we became more mindful of everyone’s time (and what all was on each other’s plates outside of work), that same meeting would happen with only 3-4 people and it was highly effective!

RECOMMENDATION

Invite people to the meeting who can add value and insight. Seek their opinion, guidance, feedback and approval, if need be. Start small and ask the attendees themselves to see if you’ve inadvertently left someone out or ask others on the fringe of topic expertise or awareness if they feel they should attend.

 

KEEP STANDARDS HIGH

With the remote culture and now hybrid work environment many of us still find ourselves in, maintaining high and consistent meeting standards is critical for employee engagement, creative thinking and organizational effectiveness.

In 2019, I rarely turned down a meeting without an agenda, almost never shared my “do I really need to be here” sentiments and hardly ever shared feedback with the meeting organizer on how their lack of clear purpose let the meeting go off the rails. Those meetings were frustrating, draining and created undue stress because no one was prepared.

RECOMMENDATION

2020 taught most of us to be more discerning and responsible with our interactions. As a meeting facilitator, I learned that sending questions ahead of time created more real time interaction in a virtual space. I found using a round robin approach helped me feel connected when I could only see six video tiles at any given time. I encouraged everyone to show up with video so we could gain confidence in interaction and I learned to stick to an agenda as people found it harder to pivot between topics in a virtual environment.

 

The truth of the matter is, these learnings apply to EVERY meeting, whether in person or virtual. When we share agendas, invite the right people, and keep high standards for these interactions, we can get to work faster. Meetings become more collaborative, interesting, and even (yes, I’m going to say it) fun. What’s more, by modeling great meeting behavior, we we’re helping others to do the same. Who knows, this could become a habit in your office that reduces the quantity, and increases the quality of meeting requests in your inbox.

Finally, if you want to become a master at meeting effectiveness, review the results of the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment for each attendee. You’ll gain insight on how each person communicates, processes information and makes decisions to ensure you are getting the best from everyone in the room or on the Zoom!

 


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Interesting in hearing more from ADVISA Leadership Consultant Stephanie Murphy? Read “5 Missing Insights About Your Personal Leadership Brand.”

You may also be interested in this article on building work-life balance into company culture.