Smart people have lousy meetings. Keeping meetings on track is like organizing a barrel of hummingbirds.
The only thing worse than low-participation meetings is one exploding with ideas that ends in confusion. Add a bloviator or two and you’re doomed. And don’t forget the genius who brings up flying pigs when the topic is purple giraffes.
Meetings spiral into oblivion when ideas and perspectives cause paralysis.
4 tools to keep meetings on track:
#1. Anticipate derailment factors:
- Incompetence at the head of the table. The person at the head of the table is responsible for the quality of the meeting.
- Poor planning.
- Generic agendas.
- Insecure barrier builders who imagine bizarre obstacles.
- Intentional distractors with hidden agendas.
- Genius scatter brains.
- Political manipulators.
#2. Declare specific outcomes.
You can’t keep meetings on track when there is no track. Please don’t have meetings to explore an issue or discuss a topic.
You convene to generate five ways to meet next week’s deadline, not to explore an issue. ‘Explore’ and ‘discussion’ invite random conversations.
#3. Leverage the “dog in the fight” rule.
Invite people who have a dog in the fight, no one else. Anyone who consistently leaves without a task should not be invited to the meeting.
#4. Use fill in the blank statements.
The room is filled with smart people. Keep meetings on track by asking people to complete a sentence.
- My suggestion for meeting next week’s deadline is ____________.
- The next three steps on this project are ___________.
- My recommendation is ____________.
- The objective of this project is ____________.
- One of our best opportunities right now is ____________.
- One reason this won’t work is ______________. (Use when searching for potential obstacles.)
- One way I can contribute to this project is __________.
Begin with answers. No stories. No long explanations. Gently interrupt people who avoid the question.
Which of the above ideas seems most actionable for you?
How do you keep meetings on track?