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How to Hold Productive Meetings That People Don’t Actually Hate

This post is one in a series of tips for making your small business run better and is sponsored by UPS.

Scheduled communication may be one of the most powerful team and accountability building tools available when done the right way.

photo credit: MoDOT Photos

Meetings are an essential aspect of getting things done, collaborating and delegating, but for many they are the bane of business life. People actually leave companies because of the life draining nature of their meeting culture.

This commonly accepted feeling about meetings comes about because most people have been trained to handle meeting in one of two ways.

One is the “I hate meetings, so just come to me if you have a problem” method. Of course this is quite possibly the most frustrating approach for all concerned. This approach leads to lots of wasted time and the every ten minute or so interruption.

The other approach is what I refer to as the “I’ve called a meeting, but it’s really a reading” approach. In this approach managers read from a list of to-dos that could have been sent via email and then propose some things to try to get buy in.

This second approach eventually leads to adopting the first “I hate meetings” attitude and drains any sense of commitment from all involved.

Here’s the deal: you need meetings, perhaps frequently, but you need them to be energetic, useful and in the words of consultant Al Pittampalli – modern.

In Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Pittampalli lists the seven attributes of what he calls the modern meeting. This is a great framework for how to think about meetings that generate energy and action.

1. The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.
2. The Modern Meeting starts on time, moves fast, and ends on schedule.
3. The Modern Meeting limits the number of attendees.
4. The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared.
5. The Modern Meeting produces committed action plans.
6. The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.
7. The Modern Meeting works only alongside a culture of brainstorming.

Read Pittampalli’s book before your next meeting and consider making it a gift to everyone in your organization.

Adopting this approach to meetings and making it the “accepted meeting protocol” in your organization will reduce the need for meetings that drain, hold anyone that calls or attends a meeting accountable for action and even keep the boss on task. (Well, maybe)

Pittampalli’s last point can’t be emphasized enough.

Brainstorming is an essential business tool as well, but it’s not the same as a meeting. Meetings are for making decisions, brainstorming sessions are to throw out ideas, discuss constraints, test theories and get feedback on ideas.

You need an entirely different framework for brainstorming. You need to frame the idea, throw roles and titles and encourage big thinking. (And, don’t forget to feed everyone well.) In fact, brainstorming sessions should be held offsite in settings that encourage and foster creativity.

Far too many meetings are really just protracted brainstorming sessions where little gets done. Hold advertised brainstorming sessions as special events to take advantage of this unique tool, but resist the temptation to bring this dynamic into meetings.

Again, meetings are for making decisions, most everything else can be handled with email, IMs and texts.

This applies to team meetings, all hands meeting and even one on one meetings.

Embrace this mindset and watch what happens to the energy, accountability and action produced from meeting that nobody hates.



Everyone That Likes Meetings Raise Your Hand

Marketing podcast with Al Pittampalli (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Read-This-Before-Our-Next-MeetingOkay since I’m not seeing a bunch of hands go up I’m guessing that maybe you’ve worked in one of those places where it seemed like your job was to attend meetings, really long, boring, everyone needs to say something meetings.

I’ve been self employed over twenty five years now so, I can tell you, I don’t do meetings very often, but even I detest those meetings that seem to be held so someone can read you a PowerPoint deck or go over the contents of an email or, worst of all, pick your brain.

This week’s guest on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Al Pittampalli, author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting.

Pittampalli worked for years consulting with large organizations and wanted to find out why some companies have so many meetings. He thinks he’s found that answer and now claims without hesitation to be a meeting culture warrior. He’s on a mission to change the way organizations hold meetings, make decisions, and coordinate action.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting several meeting principles that Pittampalli calls the “Modern Meeting Standard

Perhaps pivotal to understanding the key shift in meeting thinking the first tenet of the Modern Meeting Standard – The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.

According to Pittampalli, most meetings are held to try to make a decision, something he claims is why so many meetings are needed. When in fact, most decisions need to be made by a few and meetings should then be used only to resolve a conflict about a decision or communicate actions based on a decision.

Pittampalli is also quick to point out that his way of thinking requires a bit of a culture change in organizations that have long meetinged people into submission. Part of that culture change is to move brainstorming out of the meeting format so that it can live and thrive as the truly different beast that it is.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting is available in Hardcover, Kindle, or Audio formats, published by the one and only Domino Project.

As is part of the Domino model the book also enjoys a sponsorship from Citrix, the Kindle version of Read This Before Our Next Meeting is available for FREE until Aug 10th. You can download it right now.

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or