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The Lever #013: Run Meetings Like a Boss

Organizations spend roughly 15% of their time on meetings, with surveys showing that 71% of those meetings are considered unproductive.

Try this instead.


Before we start:

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The Monday Morning Meeting

A place where tedium rules and dreams go to die. Your co-workers shuffle in, coffee cups firmly gripped, bracing for the one way conversation that is about to take place.

This isn't just the team leaders fault, everyone is complicit. The request for input or questions is greeted with a table full of blank stares. Communication is a two way street and everyone has a responsibility to make that work.

On-board ships there is a meeting at the change of watch, at 1130 and 2330 every day. This is typically called a Safety Meeting, Pre-Tower Meeting, or Tool Box Talk. Everybody who is going on shift gathers and the plan for the coming shift is reviewed. Work permits are assigned, lessons learned are discussed, and safety related issues are brought to the fore front.

The risk with this meeting, especially on an extended job where the same task has been ongoing for weeks, is that the repetitiveness begins to eat away at people. Supervisors have no fresh input so end up repeating what the last person said, and the workers use the forum to gripe. Then just as you think it's done, the Safety Officer stands up to tell adults how to properly walk while holding a coffee cup.

What's The Point?

If it's a waste of time, why do we keep doing it?

The reason for hosting meetings of any sort is to exchange knowledge and ideas, and to ensure that the companies vision is being carried out, as measured by goals achieved. The issues arise when something is missing, either through the leaders inability to properly control the meeting or by the attendees poor attitude.

Often a bit of both.

The Linchpin

One day a new supervisor took over onboard. His meetings were different.

Fun. High energy.

He had the right people in the right place, and knew what to do with them.

He would meet with the oncoming crew and all the supervisors, who were in charge of running the ships various departments - electrical, machinery, cranes. But rather than become an episode in one way communication, each member was expected to share the status of their departments, or areas.

In this way problems could be identified and action plans developed. If a problem was reported in some area on Monday, the supervisor expected answers on Tuesday.

The participation of all members was ensured, as everybody involved were held accountable for their departments. When the meeting was over, each department head would then go and spread the contents of the meeting to their staff, as they saw fit.

These meetings were highly successful, and had two main components

1/ Right People

If your meetings are being met with plenty of blank stares and uncomfortable silences, consider that you may not have the right people attending. Rather than bring the whole team in to every discussion try instead to have each of the department leaders present, then have them spread the message through their organizations.

2/ Accountability

By requiring answers the next day people are held accountable. This ensures progress gets made. Make sure that instructions issued are turned into action by holding people accountable. Set up a schedule for follow up and stick to it.

Follow Through

Not keeping the right people informed is the biggest cause of miscommunication. If you don't share your expectations they won't be carried out.

By clearly stating your expectations to a select number of people your message is sure to be properly shared.

Especially if those same people are held accountable for it's delivery.


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