The Surprising Secret to More Effective Meetings

Kristen Craft | May 24, 2018

This guest post comes to us from Paula Cizek, Chief Knowledge Officer of NOBL, investigating firsthand how companies adapt to the rapidly evolving marketplace. 

How often have you said, “I was stuck in meetings all day and didn’t have any time to get work done”? The truth is, in today’s complex and ever-changing markets, team meetings are how work gets done: people with different expertise and from different functions must weigh in to discuss options and decide on the best course of action. The real problem is ineffective meetings.

Why Meetings Go Awry

In the course of NOBL’s change management work, we’ve audited hundreds of hours of team meetings and seen three main problems:

  • The purpose of the meeting is unclear, leading to circular conversations. This makes attendees question why they’re even there in the first place, which leads them to check emails or do other work—ultimately defeating the point of meeting and lowering morale among everyone in the room
  • The decisions made, and next steps required to enact those decisions are forgotten—or even contradicted—by the next meeting.
  • Key decision-makers rush from meeting to meeting, leaving them no time to reconnect with their own direct reports to convey what happened in meetings.

The result? Teams don’t get the information they need to make progress, and forward momentum slows to a crawl. To solve each of these pain points, we’ve developed Team Tempo, a system for better meetings that:

  • Gives definition to the different types of meetings, with clear steps for each—making it clear to all attendees why they’re meeting, and minimizes the need to create a detailed meeting agenda in advance.
  • Sets a schedule for regular meetings to make sure the team is addressing everything they need to—and not holding extraneous meetings.
  • Identifies the roles of Meeting “Facilitator” and “Recorder.” Everyone understands the need for a Meeting Facilitator, but the Meeting Recorder is an overlooked role too often relegated to the most junior person in the room. In fact, the Recorder may be the most important person in the room: without proper documentation of the outcomes of the meeting, it’s like the meeting never occurred.

You can download Team Tempo to learn more about the types of meetings and their schedule, but we’ve also teamed up with Tettra to develop a tool that makes the Recorder’s job easier.

Better Documentation, Better Meetings

Implementing better meeting structure, along with better information sharing, makes meetings more effective and speeds up the work occurring outside of meetings. At your next meeting, nominate a Recorder and follow these guidelines:

  • Capture only the essentials. The biggest mistake Recorders make is attempting to capture the minutes of the meeting. The truth is, though, no one wants to go back and read a blow-by-blow recap. Instead, concentrate on three results: the decisions made, any follow-up conversations to schedule, and next steps and their owners. Tettra’s standard meeting notes template makes it easy to record and review at a glance.
  • Work in the open. If possible, capture meeting notes on a visible surface (such as a screen or a whiteboard) in real-time. This makes it clear what’s already been addressed and who’s responsible for doing what.
  • Share immediately. Distribute the notes to everyone who attended the meeting, or better yet, store it in a central repository so that non-attendees can always access them. (A side benefit is that as people grow accustomed to always having access to meeting results, they’ll feel less compelled to sit in meeting they don’t actually need to be in, increasing productivity overall.) If you’re using a tool like Tettra, relax—this step is already done!
  • Have a backup. Life happens, and sometimes the designated Recorder will miss a meeting. Plan ahead and someone else to take their place. We actually encourage teams to rotate the role every month and for senior leaders to step up, in order to show that the Recorder is essential for helping the team run smoothly.

How to Get Others on Board with a New Meeting Format

If you want to try implementing these policies but face resistance, try the following:

  • Track meeting times. If you have a shared calendar, make a rough estimate of the percentage of time most team members spend in meetings. The promise of shorter, fewer, more effective meetings may help convince your team to try a different way.
  • Test it. Try this format with a small group of people for two weeks, then ask for feedback. Once you’ve made adjustments, you can spread the practice to a wider range of teams.
  • Educate. Share this post, notes from your “trial run,” and the improved meeting outcomes with a broader range of stakeholders.

Ready to get started? Download Team Tempo, and subscribe to Tettra for the meeting notes template.

Want to learn more about how NOBL can help your team more operate more effectively? Visit our site or get in touch.