In the first post in this series, I introduced you to Judy Rees’ Double Doom Loop. Loop 1 starts with poor experiences in meetings that lead to attendees not coming prepared which results in lack of engagement, and thus lack of achieving the meeting objectives. Loop 2 starts with too many meeting that have too many attendees which leads toa lack of focus which results in poor meeting experiences. Begin Loop 1 again. Rinse and repeat.
I covered Loop 1 in the first 2 posts. Now, let’s address how to avoid meetings that create that 2nd loop altogether.
Build asynchronous work into the meeting: Asynchronous work is work that can happen outside of the meeting on the attendee’s own time. Attendees can read a draft document, prepare a status report, or contribute to a shared output before the meeting so the synchronous (time together) work can focus on issues or decisions where group interaction is essential. Good “async” work reduces overall meeting time and leads to positive outcomes (and happier people).
Decline meetings if you don’t know why you’ve been invited: I give you permission to do this. In fact, look at your calendar right now and decline 2 meetings where you do not know why you’ve been invited. One of two things will happen:
1.Nothing. The Organizer won’t even notice.
2.The Organizer will reach out to ask you why you can’t attend. Ask why you are needed. This can lead to a teachable moment where you coach the Organizer on these practices!
Just don’t have a meeting at all: Can you spare your attendees another meeting on their already-booked calendar? Be ruthless in your meeting planning to avoid wasting anyone’s time. Can solve this asynchronously? Can a group chat in your team channel get that issue resolved?
Here’s my formula for deciding if I must have a meeting.
1.Is this a critical issue? You might need to meet. Maybe.
2.Has work been done on this already? Review that work first.
3.What issues/questions are still outstanding? See point #1. Which are most critical?
4.Who can answer the questions or resolve the issues? That is the person or people to talk to.
Now assuming you’ve decided you need a meeting, consider the number of people you’ll need and whether meeting-less approach is possible:
1-3 people – start with an email or group discussion but move to a meeting if issue isn’t resolved in XX days (or XX number of responses, etc.) where is X is defined by priority or complexity of the issue. (you decide what the X value is)
4-6 people – schedule a short meeting, provide a detailed description of issues/questions, what output is needed for each one and who is needed for each topic
>6 people – why are so many people needed? Are there multiple issues? If so, break out the issues and go back through this formula.
The best meeting is no meeting, as I always say!