Monday, February 14, 2011

What would make meetings shorter but more effective?

Meetings can be dramatically shorter and more effective by thinking of the agenda as a map—not a list, having a clear product and reducing weak language.

I have borrowed this from a friend – Bill Hoogterp 

Bill got to work on a brief project years ago with Tony Robbins, the famous author and motivational speaker.  Quite a brilliant guy.  They were both involved helping on something called The Presidents Summit for Americas’ Future, chaired by General Colin Powell.

We were just getting started in a meeting and Tony politely interrupted the chair and said.  “Stuart, just one question before we dive in.  What do you really want us to get done here?”   Stuart was caught a bit off guard but it was obvious Tony was trying to be helpful so he answered.  “Well, you have the agenda.. uh…right here.   We’re gonna talk about …”  Tony interrupted again. “Hey, no, the agenda looks great Stuart, but what do you really want us to get accomplished before we leave.  We’re with you but what do you want us to truly get done before we walk out that door?”   Stuart considered it and came up with the couple things he thought were the top priorities.  And it helped the meeting.  A day later, another meeting, different topic, different chair.  Same Tony, same question.   A couple days later, a conference call and Tony does the same thing.  Each time it was helpful but after a few meetings, what did you think people started doing knowing that Tony would be in the meeting?    They started writing across the top of the agenda the articulated goal of the meeting and it improved the effectiveness of the group.

You can be the Tony of your group by asking his question.

Imagine your goal is the top of the mountain where you want the group to go.  Everyone has to agree on your goal.  That goal has to be fixed, it does not change and your job as a leader is to get the group there.  

Now imagine the path up the mountain is your strategy.  That is flexible.  There can be many different paths that reach the top of the mountain, which is the better one or best one for now?

Be firm on the goal, flexible on the strategy.  You want your group, your employees and colleagues to improve your strategy and come up with a better path whenever they can. 

...more to come on effective meetings...

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