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5 Key Shifts to Game-Changing Meetings


I love my team meetings!”

Said no CEO or manager – ever.

However, To do anything great and wonderful, you have to interact with people.

And when you deal with groups of people, there is no way to avoid meetings.

There are questions to be answered.

Progress updates to be shared.

Excuses to be made…ahem! It happens.

Though technology has given us the ubiquitous email and Instant Messages which follows us everywhere (even to the bathroom), nothing offers a satisfactory alternative to face to face meetings.

But Not All Meetings are Conducted Equal:

Companies in the US spend $37 billion on unnecessary and unproductive meetings!


How do you compare?

If you believe that your meetings do not drain substantial resources, consider the following:

(i) Meetings take up time – the most valuable asset you and your company possess. And they have a compounding effect.

Imagine this.

If a meeting between seven employees takes 20 minutes with no productive output, then that little session of chit chat wastes not 20 minutes but 20*7 = 140 minutes.

140 minutes that could be used to take concrete steps on key projects.

(ii) Meetings turn chaotic. Have you been in meetings where several people speak together to put their opinions across, but no one gets heard?

Not only does the boardroom turn into the setting for a melodramatic NewsHour like debate, but it also fosters hostility in team members.

Who wins? It’s the loudest or the boss’ favorite who gets all the attention, and the rest are left feeling dispirited, disengaged and resentful.

(iii) Meetings add to the confusion. Meetings often end in an awareness that things need to get done – but no one knows who is responsible for them. There’s an expectation that someone will take care of it. But who?

People walk away from such discussions more confused than before.

Meetings Need to be Re-Thought:

All around the world engagement at work is a record all-time low of 13%.

Confusing, chaotic, unproductive and downright frustrating meetings are a significant contributing factor.

The stakes are extraordinarily high for executives and managers who may have 60 meetings per month.

For the last six months, we at Calm Achiever have been operating by the principles of Holacracy. And the benefits that come with from following its meeting practices are nothing short of amazing. 

Discussions are fast, efficient & action oriented. Team members not only leave with their issues addressed but also with more clarity on who has to do what.

Here are five simple shifts you must initiate to have game-changing meetings:

1. Have a Check-In & Check-Out Rounds:

Check-ins and check-outs lay the foundation of productive meetings.

(i) Check-Ins help people become present in the boardroom. They are forced to shake off the carryover of previous conversations, bothersome assignments, and personal baggage to get into action mode.

(ii) Check-outs are a time of reflection and synthesis. Team members are enlightened by what others have taken away from the session. It broadens their perspective and gives them more food for thought.

2. Discuss One Issue at a Time, Strictly!

I can’t stress how important this is.

Have you ever been in meetings where you raise an issue, and it gets hijacked by a colleague who has related concerns?

The group ends up hopping from one problem to another, never actually addressing the original problem.

So, by strictly discussing one issue at a time, it creates a safe space for individuals to share their problems and then engage with others to find a solution.

And this happens without the fear of going off-track because of someone else’s related or unrelated tensions. 

3. Ask “What Do You Need?”

The person facilitating the meeting asks each person with an issue, the simple yet powerful question  “What do you need?

It forces the person to get clear about the kind of assistance they are seeking for a resolution.

People look for one of these five things:

(i) A physical, visible Next Action to make progress on a pending task that affects the individual’s place in the organization.

(ii) A project or a larger outcome.

(iii) Sharing of information – like progress updates.

(iv) Clarity around an existing topic, project or Next Action through discussion and brainstorming.

(v) Setting a new expectation for a project or Next Action if the current accountabilities of the individual’s position do not support the original expectation.

4. Review the Commitments of Previous Meetings:

When starting a meeting, spend some time reviewing the commitments of previous meetings.

Ask each person accountable for a project to share if there have been any updates.

Just share updates. No discussion.

When team members know they are expected to share their progress, they try their best to get the needle moving on their tasks and are less likely to procrastinate. 

A commitments review also reveals the gap between where they are now and the desired outcome – giving them an opportunity to raise issues and request the five items listed in the previous section to move forward on their goals.

5. Appoint a Person to Fill the Role of Secretary for Every Meeting

The Role of the Secretary is to:

  • Schedule the meetings & send out invitations
  • Make a note of the agenda items
  • After discussing each agenda item make a note of who’s going to take up the Next Action / Project.
  • Share the minutes of meeting with the team members

By committing in writing who has been assigned specific Next Actions & Projects, everyone on the team gets instant clarity.

A secretary can also maintain the system where the team’s Projects can be referenced and reviewed. It is an easy way to cement accountabilities, and it also keeps a log of how the company (or the team) evolves.

The Changes at Calm Achiever:

These five steps have completely re-wired our team mentality and the way we perceive meetings.

  1. The sessions are shorter. Sometimes we go through and solve ten or more problems in just thirty minutes.
  2. Agenda items are not just touched on – they are to all intents and purposes tackled effectively with concrete Next Actions assigned to responsible, accountable individuals.
  3. People have positive associations with meetings. They walk away from the discussions with the sense of having made progress on their tasks.
  4. Last but not the least the confluence of ideas leads to exceptionally creative solutions which would have been beyond the limited field of possibilities as viewed by a single “Problem Solver.”

Now it’s Your Turn:

Start incorporating these suggestions in your meetings while your desire to make a difference is still burning bright.

To bring structure to what we have shared, you can follow the instructions in the Holacracy Tactical Meeting card.

Don’t forget to appoint a secretary – who will take down the minutes and the outcomes of the meeting and a facilitator who will act as the gatekeeper, preventing disruptions, nudging conversations in the direction of resolution and in general keeping the sessions objective and stress-free.

You won’t be able to nail all meetings right away. Breaking free of unproductive, ego driven patterns takes time.

But take baby steps. Commit a little. And soon you’ll start having game-changing meetings.

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