How Can We Meet With More Intent?

“We accidentally curate who comes to the meeting, who has a seat at the table where decisions are made… What if we thought deeply about who sits across from us during the key conversations?” 

Seth Godin kicks off the week by asking an important question.

Our meetings are guided by habit. That's why even top CEOs, some of the most time-constrained creatures on this planet, are stuck to 1-hour meetings. Why can’t they be 45 minutes, 30 minutes or less?

The problem is that we tend to take our meetings for granted. We complain about them, but we don’t ask the right questions to make them better. That’s why they run too long, why they lack direction and why they fail to engage participants. According to the 2017 State of Enterprise Work survey, workers consider wasteful meetings the biggest challenge to getting their work done. 

As Godin rightfully asks, what if we did it with more intent?

The first step to becoming more conscious about how we meet is to define a clear purpose. In her book The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker eloquently explains that “we often make the mistake of conflating category with purpose.” A weekly team meeting is a weekly team meeting, which means the team gathers on the phone or in a physical room. But to what end?

If you think you are gathering “to talk, to brainstorm or to bond”, you have to try harder.

Before any gathering, meeting expert Mamie Kanfer Stewart suggests defining a desired outcome that starts with a noun, not a verb.

What’s the one thing you want to have at the end of the meeting that you don’t have right now? This could be a list of five ideas about how to tackle a certain problem, or an agreement on how to split the budget between two departments. A tip from Kanfer Stewart: make your desired outcome as specific as possible, so you can use it as a metric to determine if your meeting was successful.

When you know your meeting’s purpose, it’s much easier to decide who should be in the room to create a productive gathering. As Godin puts it: “Convenient should not be the dominant driver of this choice. Nor should existing protocol.”

So let’s break the habit and ask ourselves why we are meeting in the first place. It will save a lot of time and will eventually lead to happier employees and improved decision-making.