Meeting Effectiveness

Why effective meetings?

If you are an organisation or individual seeking to create an effective future, the key medium you have to effect this is in how you meet with others. Meetings are the primary mechanism by which we: generate enthusiasm, inspire creativity, build ownership, engage diversity, reinforce culture, nurture teamwork, grow people, sell ideas, develop solutions, and effect a whole other bunch of valuable outcomes – loyalty, confidence, trust, vision, to name a few.

They are also the primary mechanism by which we do the total opposite.

Effective meetings are about maximising positive value of meetings described above through efficiently (and recognisably) using participants’ time to add that value to themselves, to their work, and/or to others. Effective meetings are ones in which the silver arrows in the diagram on the right actively strengthen and grow the other arrows.

But what makes meetings effective?

What makes a meeting effective?

A clear objective and a good agenda to deliver that objective are certainly key. But what of the approach taken to delivering the agenda, and of the attitudes that people bring to the meeting? How do they impact effectiveness, and is one of these, the approach or the attitudes, more important than the other?

Analysis shows us that the design of the meeting is important, but how people participate is twice as important. However, the two things are closely related, and it is when good structure comes together with good participation that meetings can be truly effective – even transformational.

For this to work, the structure needs to provide what is necessary for good participation, and the participation needs to fully exploit the opportunities and value of the structure – the two need to work hand in hand. So, what does that look like in practice?

The framework below provides two useful checklists to identify responsibilities for each and how they work together. These checklists are mirrored in the spider-diagram analysis of meeting effectiveness within the Inspirometer tool. For more information on each aspect, click on the hyperlinks below.

Structure: Create the time, space and
resources to best enable the following:
  Participation: Use the following as a set of personal groundrules:
1 Arrival – providing a space for people to ready themselves; shelve their baggage and be totally present as their best selves   Arrive – ready yourself to be present at your best
2 Alignment – explicitly engaging people in the why, what and how of the meeting; making it real and relevant to their ‘heart’   Align – commit to an agreed intent and approach
3 Activity – create participative processes to support curiosity, compassion & courage; use movement and multi-channel tools   Aid – use input to support progress in each other
4 Attention – facilitate attitudes of curiosity, compassion, courage; remain alert and agile to adjusting yourself and the process   Attend – nurture your curiosity and actively listen
5 Actions – clarify the outcomes and how they are to be enacted; explicitly address issues of uncertainty and lack of confidence   Act – determine to do! Commit and diarise actions
6 Assessment – track the perceived value of every meeting; use it to drive insights which improve the process and the people   Assess – how things were done and your part in that

Developing a strategic approach to Meeting Effectiveness requires that we understand where we are and where we want to be in relation to each of these aspects. This then enables us to prioritise the strategies we need to close the gap between the two.

A useful mechanism for helping individuals and teams to develop clear pictures of where they are is a maturity model. This describes progress in an aspect of improvement as a series of criteria or descriptions between the dire and the excellent, and enables people to ponder and debate which description best applies to them currently and which they want to apply to them in the future. An example of such a maturity model for Meeting Effectiveness is shown below.

As you can see, the descriptions between the current and the desired situation provide insight into the tactics you may need to adopt to close the gap, and thereby provide the basis for an holistic strategy for your approach.

If you would like a more detailed maturity model for Meeting Effectiveness, click here.