4 Steps to a Productive Meeting

Have you ever finished a meeting and said, “That was unproductive”?

You’re not alone. 

More than $37 billion is spent per year on unproductive meetings (yes, that’s a “b”).

Why are we so unproductive in meetings? 

  • Lack of focus – we are multitasking (emails, texts, preparing for the next meeting, etc.).
  • Life happenings – let’s face it, we’re humans. Life happens and, more times than not, we bring the ups and downs of it into our meetings.
  • There’s no agenda.

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of spending my morning with Dr. Ray Jorgensen. Dr. Ray has spent the last 30+ years helping organizations like State Farm, IBM, Time Warner, and several arms of the US Military and Government take their leadership, communication, and collaboration to new levels.

Dr. Ray shared many powerful things that morning, but his four practical steps to an effective meeting resonated with me:

#1 – Start the meeting with a clear focus

Specifically, every meeting should start with the following (in this order):

  • Context - what are we going to discuss? what’s the agenda?
  • Purpose - why are we meeting?
  • Outcome - what result should I expect after this meeting?

#2 – Surface and temporarily clear obstacles. 

I’m not just referring to the tangible obstacles in the meeting space like donuts and cell phones. I’m also referring to the mindset. 

Everyone in the meeting should check in. Provide a safe environment for everyone to share anything going on in life – good or bad - that may interfere with the overall attitude and mindset of the meeting. This could be as simple as asking the question: “Is there anything important going on that may get in the way of us having a productive 30 minutes?”

#3 – Develop a common understanding.

This is simply creating alignment with everyone participating in the meeting. Whatever the topic of conversation, make sure everyone understands and is clear about it. No assumptions.

Most importantly, don’t try to be right. As Dr. Ray shared with me, “when you try to be right, you’re actually creating a learning disability in yourself.” 

#4 – Commit to action.

Everyone should leave the meeting with three things: specific deliverables, deadlines, and a process for accountability. How’s that saying go... “things that aren’t written down are just wishes.”

In coaching leadership teams to EOS mastery, I call these setting Rocks for the next 90 days and creating a To-Do List for the week.

What can I say…things just seem to happen when everyone is clear on what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and when there’s a process in place to make sure it’s getting done.

When is your next meeting? Can you commit to applying these four principles? I’d enjoy hearing about your experience.