Why Your Meetings Suck (Part II)

The sample agendas found below (which definitely don’t suck) will cover just about all of the different meeting types your company might face.

This is the second article in a two-part series providing steps to more intentional and productive company meetings. The key takeaway from last week’s article is that we have to STOP believing that meetings are bad. Bad meetings are bad. Great meetings are moments of truth and accountability. Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at the different types of meetings your company needs to start planning, today.

Daily Huddle

This is a short daily meeting with your frontline. The powerful part is that it happens EVERY day. I can hear you out there saying that this won’t work for your company, that you can’t possibly get everyone together every day and that it would be a waste of time. You’d be wrong! Do it by teams or by division and use technology (phone/video conference) to make it easier. 

Think about it this way: While your teams are doing re-work, going back and forth to Home Depot five times for parts, and waiting on another sub to finish their work, the best teams at other companies are all on the same page. They know exactly what everyone else is up to that day and their gross margin is going to crush yours. You can’t afford to NOT do a daily huddle. Keep it short and simple!

Huddle Sample Agenda:

  1. Make sure everyone knows their assignments for the day (5 to 10 minutes)
  2. Q-and-A (5 minutes)

Peak Performance Meeting

Each week, each division should get their teams together for training. If you are just talking at your people it isn't training, it's just a boring meeting! Peak Performance meetings need to be interactive.

For example, every week have your employees read a short article (this article would be a great one to start with). Ideally, you want them to walk in with questions about what they read. At the end of the meeting, certify them with a simple five-question quiz (they literally take a quiz and get a tiny certificate that they can post next to their desks or in their vans that shows they are "Peak Performance Meeting Certified.”).

Videotape these meetings so that new employees can watch an entire library of your company’s greatest hits. Your employees will hit the ground running and you’ll crush your competition. What if your new staff members spent 12 hours watching training videos before they met with your first client? Wouldn't that be a great way to introduce them to your culture, rather than just throwing them in the deep end and hoping for the best?

Peak Performance Sample Agenda:

Culture Club (5 minutes): Discuss one of your company’s values and a staff member who recently demonstrated that value.

Housekeeping (5 minutes): Any updates you need to share?

Execution and Training (40 minutes): Roleplay a common process from your company. Have an employee present a best practice. Lead a discussion on an article or book you all read.

Jeopardy (10 minutes): Play a game to test everyone’s knowledge. Give away a fun prize. Invest in some Jeopardy buzzers (go on ebay.com and search for the “Rolls GS76RL”) and make it fun and interactive.   

Production Meeting

OK, I am going to admit this up front: Production is the one meeting that is a necessary evil. I don’t have any magic to make this meeting “fun,” but you can take some of the sting out of it if you read on. You’re going to have to bring a list of all your active projects to this meeting each week and walk thru them one-by-one with your team. I know that it’s tedious, but it’s the only way to hold your team accountable for closing projects. My best advice is to go thru the reporting part of the meeting as quickly as possible. Whoever is leading the meeting really needs to drive the team to stay focused and on track. 

If anybody tries to offer excuses or sermons about their project, cut them off and keep moving. What you want to figure out is whether each project is on track to meet or exceed its projections. For the second half of the meeting, you want to focus on discussing projects that are either going to finish way ahead of plan or projects that are in serious trouble.

Patrick Lencioni makes the point in “Death by Meeting” that the reason movies are so much better than meetings is because they always have a high level of drama. Movies typically present the viewer with a hero and a problem that has to be overcome. Then about halfway thru the movie there is some huge obstacle and a crescendo builds to when the hero faces the bad guy and … triumphs!

Unfortunately, most meetings have very little drama and thus are not very entertaining. In order for your meetings to be fun, exciting and productive, you need to MANUFACTURE DRAMA by focusing attention on the most interesting projects. Don’t waste time discussing Mrs. Johnson’s toilet that overflowed and the annoying adjuster who is dragging his heels on approving the claim. Focus on the project that is three weeks behind schedule and $50,000 over budget. Have the team drill down to figure out the real issue and share their experiences around how to fix it.

Leadership Team Meeting

The Leadership Team is where the C-Suite and Division Leaders get together to discuss the most important one or two issues facing the company this week. It is a tactical meeting in that it addresses the most burning issues of the day.

The meeting begins with everyone reporting their progress for the week, including current metrics and progress, against the prior week’s to do items. The remainder of the meeting is focused on solving problems. All the time spent on reporting should build a parking lot of potential problems to discuss (it helps if you assign one person to record all the potential problems for you to solve). The idea is to get all the potential problems out on the table and then to pick which ones the team will solve that day. 

Most unsuccessful meetings fail because the leadership team launches into discussing whatever problem is most top of mind for the owner of the company. Unfortunately, this usually means that the team wastes valuable time talking about whatever issue annoyed the owner of the company right before the meeting started. In other words, the team discusses the urgent at the expense of the important. Instead, you need to spend the first part of the meeting getting all the potential problems on the table and then you can choose (as a team) which problem to focus on to move the company forward. You can pick which movie you’ll watch instead of having to suffer thru whatever re-run happens to be playing in the owner’s head at the start of the appointed hour.

Leadership Team Meeting Sample Agenda:

  1. Reporting (25 minutes)
  2. Problem Solving (60 minutes)
  3. Review and Conclude (5 minutes)

Strategic Planning and Annual Planning Meeting

It is human behavior that after about 90 to 120 days, we get off track and lose focus. Imagine that everyone in your company is an arrow. Ideally, you want all of the arrows aligned and ready to shoot in the same direction. After 90 days, these arrows start to move in all directions and, with time, it’s chaos!

The Strategic Planning Meeting and Annual Planning Meeting are your compass to get back on track. These meetings will make sure that your company’s management team stays aligned on the most important things to work on over the next several months. 

The first key to this type of meeting is to hire a professional facilitator. Let’s face it, it’s really hard to both participate in a meeting and facilitate it at the same time. Unless you have a lot of experience running meetings (so much that it’s second nature), hire an outsider to help facilitate the meeting. This investment will allow you to focus on participating in solving your company’s most important problems instead of being distracted watching the clock.

Second, host the meeting off site and have it catered. Get your people outside of the box so that they can spend a day working with you ON the business and not IN the business. Treat them like a board of directors and pamper them with a catered breakfast and lunch. Going to a restaurant will break up your flow and cause the meeting to last longer. 

Lastly, make it fun! If your team is going to have to be cooped up all day talking about the business, mix in some fun team-building events (no, not trust falls! Email me if you need some ideas!) And, consider taking the team out to dinner to build rapport and enjoy each other’s company.

Sample Strategic Planning Agenda:

  1. Get vulnerable—each team member shares a high and low from the prior 90 days
  2. Review the prior quarter
    1. Review P&L for the last quarter
    2. Review progress against goals for the quarter
  3. Establish new goals for the upcoming quarter
  4. Discuss problems—this is a great time to discuss really sticky issues that were too hairy to discuss during your weekly meetings
  5. Review mission, vision and values (annual meeting only)

State of the Company Address

This is your opportunity to get everyone in your company together and aligned. Done properly, these 60 minutes will be the most profitable hour of the year for your business.

Sample State of the Company Agenda:

1. Review the company’s mission, vision and values

2. Reveal goals for the upcoming year

3. Conclude with a team-building exercise

What’s in it for you? A successful meeting plan will ensure that all your employees come together as a cohesive unit all rowing in the exact same direction, which leads back to my favorite Patrick Lencioni quote from “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

Jonathan Slain works with business owners and their executive teams to get control of their lives For a FREE meeting to discuss your business, he can be reached at jpslain@gmail.com or 216-870-4219.

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