I was sitting at the long conference table listening to a fascinating discussion. Actually, discussions, as the participants in the meeting seemed to be covering a lot of ground. As a consultant I have learned to hold my contributions until asked. Inevitably someone notices two things: 1) I am being paid to be there, and 2) I have not said anything. “So what do you think, Chris?” I know how I am going to respond to that question, no matter when I am asked, from the outset of the meeting:
“Well it depends. (Wait for it) What are the desired outcomes of the meeting?”
These eight words are magic. I have been asking this question for 25 years and still go to meetings that do not start with stated outcomes. Without stated outcomes it is impossible for me or anyone to discern the interesting from the significant; the engaging from the relevant.
There are approximately 25 million meetings per day in the U.S. Managers spend half their time in meetings. Executives report that upwards of 65 percent of meetings are failures. Fifteen percent of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings, and the number has been going up every year since 2008. Perhaps you are sitting in one of these soul-sucking meetings as you read this post, wasting your precious and finite meetings in a cacophony of corporate babble.
So I am calling you to act. I am calling you to act to save your company money and enhance its performance. I am calling you to act to make meetings come alive and a place where you and your squad can make significant contributions and live large.
Refuse to attend any meeting that does not state its outcomes up front. No more meetings that start with agendas. Agendas are not outcomes. Outcomes are real things like agreements and decisions. The stated outcomes should be made clear in the invitation.
Refuse to attend any meeting where it has not been made clear to you why your personal involvement is essential. ‘Essential’ in this context means the outcomes would be at risk without your attendance. If the convener of the meeting cannot make this clear to you, stay away.
These two alone will free up a lot of your time. Commit to doing something insanely valuable during this freed-up time.
In the event that you are invited to a meeting where the outcomes have been stated up front and your participation is essential:
Always prepare ahead of time.
Have the meeting with yourself, and learn and do whatever you need to achieve the stated outcomes. Think of this as practicing the future. By doing this you will be one of the few, perhaps only, people ready to fully engage.
Ask yourself this one thing.
“Is what is happening here–is what is being said–really the most important thing for us to achieve the stated outcomes?” Whenever the answer is “no,” intervene. Do it in an affirming manner. “This is all interesting, but if we are serious about achieving these stated outcomes with the time we have left, this is where we need to be focused.” This line is also a money intervention: “How is all this relevant to the stated outcomes?” Ca-ching! And your boss will notice.
Become the master at convening peak performance meetings.
Be the person who gathers people together to produce real and significant outcomes of substance and consequence. Be the person who others are excited to see meeting invites from. Establish your reputation as the person who tees up the right outcomes, involves the right and essential people, and conducts the meeting in a manner that leverages everyone’s contribution and produces extraordinary outcomes.
All of this begins and ends with explicitly stated outcomes.
First published on http://Inc.com June 2017