Time Valued Meetings

In 2001, I was invited to become Professor of Entrepreneurship and Director of The Centre of Entrepreneurial Leadership at Theseus International Management Institute,now part of one of Europe’s leading Business Schools, EDHEC.

The first meeting with my new collegiate had been planned for 09.00 start. At 09.15 others arrived with their coffee cups. As the new arrival to the collegiate atmosphere, I put it down to me having the time wrong – as nothing was said in apology – though I later learned that meetings started on a more relaxed ‘Provencal Time.’

Following my welcome, which was not on the agenda, but pleasant and correct protocol, we commenced the various issues to be discussed. It is not relevant as to what they were, but the discussions took one of 2 alternative routes: fist-bitingly frustrating or mind-stultifyingly boring – neither of which produced any firm outcomes of decisions. Some of my more academic colleagues got immediately bogged down in irrelevant minutiae.

Fortunately the Dean, Ahmed Aykac, did lean towards the practicalities of necessities and there were times, in fairness, that things were planned. The challenge – and this is usual in most meetings – were lots of recommendations about what should be done, but little taking ownership or following through of what was agreed to be done.

Now it is fair comment that academics are wired differently to entrepreneurs yet during my consulting years I have experienced many corporate meetings where you just want to tear your hair out at the lack of decisiveness that is so prevalent within them. And corporate meetings are usually full of tasty refreshments which is why people love going to meetings so much – that, and the feeling of importance that people seem to associate with ‘having to go to a meeting’ or ‘being in a meeting.’

Most meetings are a waste of time, too long and unproductive. And the simple reason is that people are unprepared for them in 3 ways: First in agenda terms before the meeting; Second in decisiveness terms during the event; and Third, in following through terms on what has been decided, assuming anything has at all. At many meetings I have met…

The Proposal Planner: The person that nominates to have a resolution for another meeting to discuss the possibilities of planning the way forward relating to a proposal that may be worth considering.

The My Way Director: who prefers monologue or dialogue to discussion, though allows group input he can later blame, if it goes wrong, yet can take credit for, if it goes right.

The Grazer: who arrives either with coffee or starts meetings requesting ‘oh and can you bring some biscuits?’ or proposes the team start with some of those nice sandwiches as they missed breakfast.

The Cynic: who hates every idea and has 100 reasons why it won’t work.

The Late n’ Early: who arrives late from another meeting and has to leave early to attend another.

The Gadget: who is more interested in electronic messages under the guise of making notes or just plain rudeness – either way wherever they are, they are somewhere else.

Planning Meetings.

When you plan a meeting ensure there is a pre-communicated agenda, a specific outcome from the meeting expected, a decisive follow through action understood with agreed ownership and, above all, keep it short - no more than 40 minutes. Because if you spend your business life in lengthy meetings you will have no time for customer or client marketing which is where you generate your profits.

Think about your own meetings…

1. Are you always prepared or do you wing it?

2. Are they productive with a fruitful outcome?

3. Do you suggest that you deal with something?

4. Do you follow through what you agree to?

5. Do you arrange to have another meeting on the same issue?

6. How do you behave: Are you proactive or reactive; passive or contributory?

Make a decision right now to ensure that the very next meeting you arrange or attend has a definite purpose, sets high expectations from all those involved, establishes ownership of action and follow through with a conclusive time period.

Try placing ‘any other business’ at the top of the agenda. If any element of it is about new business development, discuss it. If any element of it is not, ignore it. Why?

Because any other business that does not relate to new business development and is not already itemized on the agenda should already belong to someone for decision and action. If none of the above is possible then cancel your meeting because your time will be more productive doing real business.

Remember that…

• If Business involves meeting expectations.

• And Success demands exceeding expectations.

• Then Meetings must set great expectations.

And remember that when applying The One Percent Solution (T.O.P.S.) to:

1. Absolutely clarify, determine and define the challenge.

2. Clearly articulate & communicate the issue to be resolved.

3. Mutually agree to apply T.O.P.S. at an individual level.

4. Each member to schedule daily 14 minutes appointments.

5. Set a date and time for a ‘Decision-Meeting’ within 7 days.

6. Each team-member to commit to recording all T.O.P.S. ideas

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