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Be clear about your meeting purpose

It seems obvious that we would need to identify our meeting purpose, but sometimes we can get into a place right now where the “shoulds” start to get us. We “should” meet, we “should” make sure folks are ok, we “should” keep being as productive as we were in the past. Why those voices may be loud and capturing our attention, we need to pause and ask four important questions to guide our meeting purpose. These questions are just as important if we are meeting virtually or if we are meeting in person.

  1. Why are we meeting? We need to get a clear sense of why we are meeting and what we want to accomplish during the meeting before we schedule the meeting. It’s easy for us to try to do several different things during a meeting (online or in person) but when we do, we may run out of time for good discussion or miss the most important reason we are meeting. When we are really clear on why we are meeting, it helps our participants know what to expect and to stay more engaged. Keep it simple. Knowing folks have a short attention span, consider addressing one or two items and keeping the meeting as short as possible.  One of my favorite weekly meetings right now is a “check-in” meeting to provide support to colleagues where our meeting leader asks everyone to answer a few simple questions that help us provide encouragement to one another. The reason for the meeting is clear – we are checking in and supporting one another. That is a great reason to meet – especially right now! Your reason doesn’t have to be complicated or “productive” but it does need to be clear.
  2. Do we need to meet in order to accomplish this purpose? Once you get clear on your meeting purpose or what you would like to accomplish, then you can decide if a meeting is the best option. For some situations, the answer is an easy “yes” while for other situations, you can probably take care of your purpose through an email or a chat message.  I recently listened to a fantastic leadership podcast. Andy Stanley interviewed Patrick Lencioni who encouraged leaders to be persistent about checking in with their team right now. This may be in the form of a meeting or a video chat but it can also be in the form of an email or a chat message. When you are ready to schedule a meeting with a clear purpose, check in with yourself to see if it needs to be a meeting or if the purpose can be accomplished in another way. 
  3. What type of meeting do we need (if we need to meet)? Since we are not currently meeting in person right now, the default has been ‘zoom’ meetings. While I am a big fan and proponent of video meetings, I’ve discovered that not every meeting needs to be an online meeting. If we are checking in with a partner or talking through an idea with someone we work with regularly (and maybe have already “zoomed” with this week), a simple phone call may work well. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve discovered a better “rhythm” to my workdays by incorporating some of my meetings to be phone calls that allow me to connect AND to get outside and walk too!
  4. How long do we need to meet to accomplish this purpose? In coalitions and partnerships, we are accustomed to scheduling hour-long meetings. If someone asks for a meeting, they usually assume it will be for an hour. While your meeting purpose may need to take an hour (or longer!), it may be accomplished during 15, 30 or 45 minutes. If we can accomplish our meeting purposes in less than an hour, we can help overcome the “meeting fatigue” we discussed two weeks ago.

So what about you? What are you going to do this week to identify and clarify the purpose of your next meeting?

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Photo by Rots Marie-Hélène on Unsplash

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