Big Box Coaching

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Meetings - The Good and the Bad

Early on in my professional career I had a very involved CEO. He was amazing because of how involved he was. At least once a week you would run into him and he would genuinely say hi,. The greatest impact he had on my career was what he did in meetings. Good or bad, depending on your viewpoint, he would just drop into any meeting taking place. Yes, that is correct, just drop in sit down and participate in the meeting. He had a wonderful ability to ask such basic but thought provoking questions.

At the time I was mid-level management and had several drop-ins on my meetings by the CEO. At first they made me a bit uncomfortable, but after a few times I began to welcome them. I learned so much from his engagement I was thankful and appreciated that he gave his time to make meetings and people, better. After every meeting drop-in he would talk to me later and give me tips on how to make meetings more productive. Much of what I carried forward and teach today was born from those engagements.

  1. Every meeting has to have a purpose. If you cannot define the purpose of the meeting in the invite, then you don't need a meeting. We sometimes create meetings to get a group of smart people together to figure something out and an agenda may not make sense. There is merit to those situations depending on the need. However, those situations should be infrequent. Meetings take a lot of time and should have a clear purpose, that purpose drives action, which drives results, which drive value.
  2. Create a meeting agenda, even if you don't stick to it. Organic meetings are great and can be very productive. But that doesn't excuse from creating an agenda. You do not need a long formalized agenda, it can be very simple; introduction, review of the meetings purpose, open floor, review of action items. Having an agenda drives purpose and keeps everyone focused.
  3. Have someone take notes. Some people create formalized roles for meetings, but that can be too formalized. You just need a note taker so at the conclusion of the meeting notes can be sent to everyone. This helps keep everyone engaged, but more importantly it keeps everyone aligned. Everyone can get something different from meetings. Sometimes discussions are forgotten or twisted depending on how involved the participants are. Sending out notes aligns everyone around them and helps bring clarity, and gives participants the ability to speak up if they see something differently.
  4. Related to #3, create action items from the meeting and send them out, with the notes. If no action items come from the meeting then you probably didn't have to have a meeting. The same result could have been accomplished with an email. Action items should have an owner, priority and due date. Make sure to follow up on the action items, potentially setting up another meeting to review them. Remember if you setup a review meeting, then action items should come from that meeting. If you just need to follow up on action items use email or go talk to the person.
  5. Last point, be consistent. Really any meeting format works, you just need something and stick to it. Better yet, ask participants how the meetings are going or went. Use that feedback to improve them. But stay consistent!

Here are some bonus extra tips for leaders.

  • If you don't have to drive the meeting, DON'T. Meetings are great opportunities to let others lead. It also gives you the ability to observe, one of the greatest tools leaders have. You can also use the opportunity to bring visibility to other leaders or aspiring leaders.
  • Observe how meeting participants are engaging, dig into their words and body language. If they are disengaged, ask why and try to figure out the cause. Maybe they shouldn't be in the meeting or maybe they are unhappy with the project the meeting is related to. These observations become coaching moments for that person or their leader, which could be you.
  • If the meeting is being run by one of your team members, remember perfection is not a requirement. Many leaders are perfectionist, or have a vision of perfection. It is important to give others the room to express themselves while be close to your vision. Putting in too many restrictions or controls inhibits innovation and engagement. You end up creating task doers and not leaders.
  • Ask questions and challenge conceptions. It is ok to ask off the wall questions to get people thinking and talking. Great leaders ask questions, observe, then ask more questions.
  • If you have the ability, sit it on other's meetings within your teams they can be great coaching moments. Doing so allows you to observe others on your teams and help provide valuable coaching. Do not coach from within the meeting, wait until after and provide as close to real time feedback as possible.

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