“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”- Dave Barry
Cooperation is something that every child has to learn. Sometimes it takes a lot to learn it. One of my cooperation learning sessions involved “Sally,” the girl next door. Sally and I were the same age, went to the same schools, and grew up together. Our families were great friends and we spent a lot of time together as children.
Did I mention that Sally was sometimes infuriating? In my memory it seems that every game we played ended in us fighting and every time we played together, one (or both) of us would end up running home to our mothers in tears.
Then there was the croquet mallet incident. I really don’t remember the exact incident, but I do remember the aftermath. Evidently, Sally extremely irritated me while we were playing croquet and I hit her over the head with my croquet mallet. As I said, I don’t remember that incident but I do remember how much trouble I was in afterward. (And the spanking.) I needed a big lesson in cooperation.
Cooperation isn’t for just on the playground. It should, and must, happen every day in the office. One of the examples of a way we cooperate is to have a meeting.
Unfortunately, many meetings are a waste of time. When you consider man-hours, if you just have eight people in a meeting and meet for one hour you have used an entire eight-hour day. Was that meeting worth a whole day’s work? Many times, unfortunately, the answer is no.
There are many things that leaders can do in order to maximize meetings. But let me share just one simple thought today that I think might be the most important: make the purpose of each meeting action steps.
What is an “action step”?
Very simply, an action step is a specific action that must be taken. It will also help to keep in mind that each of these actions must be measurable (so that you know if it’s been accomplished or not) and timed (so that you know when the action must be completed).
If you don’t already do this, here are three simple ideas to get you started that I believe will revolutionize your meetings.
1. Measure the success of each meeting in action steps. If the members of the meeting have specific things they need to do once the meeting is over, then the meeting is very likely successful.
2. Make sure every action step is owned by a specific person in the meeting. Any action steps that are not assigned will never be completed.
3. End each meeting with each person articulating what their action steps are. Be sure to keep a record of each person’s assignment and hold everyone accountable.
John Kenneth Galbraith said, “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”
A good meeting ending with actionable steps will prove him wrong.
One more bit of free advice: leave the croquet mallet home. Sorry Sally!