I’ve been running or attending meetings at businesses around the world for nearly twenty years.
Over that time, pundits have studied the “art of meetings” to death.
The reason they’ve done so is obvious.
Everyone knows that communications are critical. Everyone knows that meetings ought to communicate.
Everyone wants to hold great meetings.
So the pundits came up with all sorts of frameworks, agendas, methods and tricks to try to make them more effective.
And still, practically all meetings fall into one of two categories:
- People leave them in groups, continuing the discussion as it relates to their job or team.
- Or people leave them brain dead, staggering zombie-like to the nearest source of caffeine, because they can no longer recollect what their job even is.
If there was a single solution to this problem, it would have been discovered by now.
The Importance of Being Unique
Effective meetings are as idiosyncratic as the teams that call them. And in a lot of ways, that's really your starting point.
Your meetings have to be your meetings.
But for them to work, they have to be about everyone else's career.
One recent article in HBR observed that “If you want your team to be engaged in meetings, make sure the agenda includes items that reflect their needs.”
That something so obvious is still valid information for an HBR reader in 2016 – twenty years in – indicates how hard this problem has been.
It also leads us directly to the root of bad meetings.
Do you know what’s relevant to your people?
Managers often think that everyone else must be interested in the same things they are.
Sales. Revenue. Efficiency. Customer Service. Excellence.
For a lot of leaders, that’s the “agenda” for their next meeting.
It won’t work.
It never has.
Here’s why: That leader is not practicing what he’s preaching.
Has he exhibited “excellence” with this agenda? Is he “serving” his employees they way he expects them to serve the customer? Is he making “efficient” use of their time?
What impact, then, will his meeting probably have on “revenue” and “sales”?”
The Importance of Meaningful Metrics
This is where technology can have a positive impact.
The technology required is brand new, which might mean that – after twenty years – we may be, at last, on the verge of a revolution in business meetings.
I certainly think that’s the case.
Just a couple of years ago, it was nearly impossible for a manager to “serve” his employees as closely as he expected them to serve his customers.
When you work with a customer, you figure out exactly what they are trying to accomplish. You tailor your presentation so they’ll understand how your deliverable helps them do it. You address their concerns, you overcome their objections, you give them confidence that they’re making the right decision.
Until now, if you wanted to do that for each of your employees, it would take an enormous amount of time and work.
Just think of the data you would need, and how targeted it would have to be. For every meeting, you’d have to run a bunch of reports in Salesforce, QuickBooks, Google Analytics, and so on.
You’d have to find the right number for each employee. That number would have to be something that they, personally, or as a team member, could move.
And you’d have to figure out how to present that number in such a way that it would motivate him and not confuse him.
There was just no way a manager could do all of that for each person.
We know this is true because even sales managers, who have been saturated with data from Salesforce.com for years, couldn't do it. If sales couldn’t do it, then trying to bring anything similar to the IT team, or marketing, or the shop floor, was essentially impossible.
So managers had no alternative but to settle for backwards-facing quarterly reports that applied to entire departments, instead of to individual people or teams.
They would try to believe that old data was relevant to the future. They would try to believe that their people would remember what caused the spikes and the dips.
Then, they would put all their charts into a PowerPoint presentation.
And they’d hold a meeting.
You know how that went. You were probably there. In fact, you were probably running it.
And afterward, while you watched your zombies search for caffeine, you were desperate to find a better way.
The Importance of Technology
Today you can set up tightly-targeted key performance indicators (KPIs) just once, for each individual and each team.
Then you let the software do all that detailed, tedious work for you, meeting after meeting.
That means that you can serve each employee, and team, precisely. You can give them rich, focused data that is completely under their control.
This revolutionizes your meetings.
When you hold a meeting about KPIs that your people can move, everything changes.
Nothing is abstract. Nothing is from memory. All of it is real, right now. And if you hold weekly or even daily meetings, your people will come up with all sorts of ideas to improve your business.
They’ll share those ideas with their teammates. No more post-meeting zombies. Only post-meeting follow-through.
This makes management far easier. Far more effective.
And it opens a critical opportunity for you.
You can focus the spotlight on those employees who are doing a great job.
I can’t emphasize enough just how powerful that is.
The Importance of a Fair Culture
Corporate culture has to be created. When you call people out, in front of their peers, to praise them for great work, then everyone steps up their game.
Each employee wants to be the next one in the spotlight. This is human nature.
They want to prove that they know what they’re doing. They want to prove that they’re helping the company succeed.
They want to deserve praise.
And if they know that they’ll get it at the next meeting, or the one after, they stay engaged.
You need technology to make that happen. Without it, there are no concrete measures. Without concrete measures, your praise seems arbitrary. Without concrete measures, your praise seems like favoritism.
When you have concrete measures and you judge your people according to them, your praise is clearly, undeniably, and directly related to the company’s success.
That changes everything.
Today’s corporate culture is filled with Millennials and others who were hammered by the last recession.
They want to work for a successful company.
So when you manage them like this, they realize that if they contribute, their jobs will be safe. They realize that their careers will be safe. Their families will be safe. Their professional ambitions will come true.
That’s engagement today.
And over the course of the next couple of years, only companies using technology that enables this culture will be able to retain – and groom – top talent.
Enough with the zombies.
Instead, engage your people and let them succeed in your spotlight.