Building Buffers Increases Production in Your Marathon Meetings

Meetings are a powerful tool for organizations. Secretly, though, you enjoy those Dilbert comics that feature the pain and frustration of poorly run meetings. It seems as if Scott Adams, the brilliant author of Dilbert, was a part of your last meeting!

Let’s face it; meetings can be a real drag. We all hate doing them, but we also feel they are a necessary evil to ensure people work well together. For such a straightforward concept – essentially a group of people gathered to discuss an idea – we really do make a mess out of it sometimes.

While statistics vary widely on the amount of time spent in meetings, successful organizations know their teams spend so much time in meetings that turning meeting time into sustained results is a priority. Actions that make meetings successful require direction by the meeting leader before, during, and after the meeting.

Whether you are organizing meetings or simply attending them, you owe it to yourself to become more effective at this skill – especially if you are the team leader!

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Herding Tigers by Todd Henry

Doing the work and leading the work are very different things. When you make the transition from maker to manager, you give ownership of projects to your team even though you could do them yourself better and faster. You’re juggling expectations from your manager, who wants consistent, predictable output from an inherently unpredictable creative process. And you’re managing the pushback from your team of brilliant, headstrong, and possibly overqualified creatives.

Leading talented, creative people requires a different skill set than the one many management books offer. As a consultant to creative companies, Todd Henry knows firsthand what prevents creative leaders from guiding their teams to success, and in Herding Tigers he provides a bold new blueprint to help you be the leader your team needs. Learn to lead by influence instead of control. Discover how to create a stable culture that empowers your team to take bold creative risks. And learn how to fight to protect the time, energy, and resources they need to do their best work.

Full of stories and practical advice, Herding Tigers will give you the confidence and the skills to foster an environment where clients, management, and employees have a product they can be proud of and a process that works.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Do you feel like your meeting schedule is overwhelming, often containing back-to-back meetings? Even with those, do you often feel like you can’t get everything done? Here’s a simple but effective technique: block out time in your schedule without specifying what it’s for, so you have time to work on unexpected issues.

Avoid waiting until the last-minute to schedule a time buffer. The more time you wait, the less available time and/or wiggle room you’ll have to actually drop in that time into your calendar.

Get into the habit of adding a time buffer both to the beginning and end of meetings and appointments as soon as you schedule them. Physically schedule or write-in the buffer into your calendar so you can see it.

As leader, you are uniquely positioned to help the team avoid “meeting pinball,” just bouncing between meetings all day in reactive mode.

One strategy is to establish buffers between tasks or events that allow you ream to reset, consider what’s next, and catch its breath between commitments.

Rather than stacking commitments back to back, you are giving each commitment that you schedule the amount of time it needs and no more, and you’re ensuring that every commitment has a little breathing room blocked off around it so that there is margin for participants.

If you truly want the people on your team to bring their best thinking to a meeting, don’t chain meetings back to back, especially if they are about different projects. Give them five or ten minutes to recollect themselves between meetings, to check in with their other commitments if necessary, and to refocus on the next topic.

Who decided that meetings should be an hour by default? Consider changing the default meeting expectation for your team by making each meeting precisely as long as it needs to be to finish the conversation. Then, take a break for the appropriate amount of time needed to regroup and refocus before the next meeting.

Also consider building buffers at the beginning and end of the day. While there are some situations that require such meetings, limit them as much as you can. By doing so, you’ll allow your team members to settle in, prepare, and bring their full attention and energy to the matters at hand. Also, you’ll allow them to wrap up any important matters at the end of the day before going home so that they can be refreshed and ready to go the following morning.

Todd Henry, Herding Tigers

A NEXT STEP

Time buffers are not just “fluff,” they are extremely valuable units of time! They are what keep meetings from running into one another.

You could think of time buffers just like the spaces between words in a sentence. It’s the difference between reading: “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow,” versus “Maryhadalittlelambitsfleecewaswhiteassnow.” The spaces help keep things properly separated.

Think about what value your time buffers could bring you and your team when it comes to meetings. Could your buffer bring you: peace of mind, a little less stress, or time for you to grab a snack and a drink of water?

Evaluate your current slate of recurring meetings and consider eliminating or adapting them to better your team’s time.

How can you better structure your current meeting schedule so that there is less wasted time and energy and more white space for your team to recollect and refocus on the work?

Are there any commitments or expectations that bookend your team’s day that need to be adjusted so that they have more margin around the edges of their schedule?

Once you have created buffer space around your meetings, have conversations with your team to help them take full advantage of it.

Excerpt taken from Remix 90-2, released April 2018.


 

 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

 

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

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Boring Meetings? Advance Output Using an Agenda

Meetings are a powerful tool for organizations. Secretly, though, you enjoy those Dilbert comics that feature the pain and frustration of poorly run meetings. It seems as if Scott Adams, the brilliant author of Dilbert, was a part of your last meeting!

Let’s face it; meetings can be a real drag. We all hate doing them, but we also feel they are a necessary evil to ensure people work well together. For such a straightforward concept – essentially a group of people gathered to discuss an idea – we really do make a mess out of it sometimes.

While statistics vary widely on the amount of time spent in meetings, successful organizations know their teams spend so much time in meetings that turning meeting time into sustained results is a priority. Actions that make meetings successful require direction by the meeting leader before, during, and after the meeting.

Whether you are organizing meetings or simply attending them, you owe it to yourself to become more effective at this skill – especially if you are the team leader!

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold

We all know that meetings suck, right?

You hear it all the time. It’s the one thing that almost everyone in business can agree on.

Except it’s not actually true. Meetings don’t suck; we suck at running meetings. When done right, meetings not only work, they make people and companies better.

In Meetings Suck, world-renowned business expert and growth guru Cameron Herold teaches you how to use focused, time effective meetings to help you and your company soar.

This book shows you immediately actionable, step-by-step systems that ensure that you and everyone in your organization improves your meetings, right away.

In the process, you’ll turn meetings that suck into meetings that work.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

A simple meeting agenda, distributed in advance, is perhaps the most important tool in ensuring a successful productive meeting, even when the meeting is between only you and one other person.

If you can’t personally create a meeting agenda for the meetings you convene, at least delegate that responsibility to one of the participants. That way, you’ll get all of the benefits of having an agenda without having to do the work!

The difference between meetings with and without agendas can mean chaos, ruffled feathers and very few accomplishments. An agenda communicates to attendees that the meeting will be conducted in an orderly fashion and that productivity is the goal.

Organizations hold meetings to get things done, share information, develop plans, document progress, provide clarity and make decisions. An agenda can ensure that the meeting stays on track and that special projects and routine operations proceed as intended. An agenda can help a group of employees function as an effective team.

Without question, every meeting must have a clear agenda distributed to attendees in advance. If you skip creating an agenda, then your meetings can quickly go off track, get hijacked by a random topic, or include people who shouldn’t be attending.

By taking the time to plan, prepare, and distribute an agenda before the meeting, you will reap considerable benefits.

Benefit 1: Introverts are engaged

When it comes to your more introverted team members, more often than not they won’t speak up unless you ask them a question directly or they’re passionate and engaged in the subject. Giving them an agenda in advance allows them the time they need to think through answers, frame their thoughts, or whatever else they need to do to raise their ideas.

Benefit 2: Time is maximized

Creating an agenda in advance gives you the distinct advantage of maximizing your time. Including time allocated for each item helps you realize whether you have too much or too little, and gives you the flexibility to adjust and split topics before the meeting begins, instead of trying to navigate this on the fly.

Benefit 3: Only essential employees participate

Creating your agenda in advance forces you to think critically about who you’re inviting. It’s highly likely that only select individuals need to discuss certain items on the agenda.

Benefit 4: People learn to opt out

An agenda distributed in advance helps people feel like there’s a good reason for them to attend. But it also gives people the chance to opt out if they don’t feel they can provide or extract value.

Benefit 5: Your team comes prepared

When you include the meeting style (information sharing, creative discussion, or consensus decision) in the agenda, then you tell your team what to expect and how best to prepare.

When your agenda includes all items being considered, a purpose, and possible outcomes, then people will know exactly why they have been asked to attend the meeting and what they will be expected to accomplish during it.

Cameron Herold, Meetings Suck

A NEXT STEP

If you already prepare an agenda for meetings you lead, congratulations!

However, if you do not prepare an agenda or know yours could be better, consider the following ideas to help you develop an agenda for your meetings.

  • Create the agenda at least three days in advance, to allow everyone time to review it and prepare for the meeting.
  • Seek input from team members.
  • Create a list of any pre-meeting work required by participants.
  • Start with simple details: time and place and attendee list.
  • State the meeting objective or goal.
  • Create a list of meeting topics or questions to be answered.
  • Add a realistic time allotment for discussion of each topic.
  • If appropriate, list discussion leader for each topic
  • Choose only topics that affect the entire team participating.
  • Other pertinent information as required.
  • Plan to end each meeting with continuous improvement by asking 1) What did we do well? and 2) What do we need to different for the next meeting?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 90-1, released April 2018


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Design Your Meetings for One Purpose: To Support Decisions

Do your team meetings tend to suck the wind out of you, instead of filling your sails?

There’s nothing more annoying than a meeting that goes on and on and on – except maybe a meeting that goes on and on and on AND doesn’t accomplish anything.

Many ministry teams fritter away precious time during meetings on unfocused, inconclusive discussion rather than rapid, well-informed decision making. The consequences are delayed decisions that lead to wasted resources, missed opportunities, and poor long-range planning.

Want more successful meetings?

Design your meetings for one purpose: to support decisions.

It is time to stretch your personal development and lead your church to stay focused and make timely decisions. If you are experiencing success and feeling the resulting complexity, consider implementing a three-rhythm process for effective execution.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pittampalli

How many times have you dreaded going to a meeting either because you viewed it as a waste of time or because you weren’t prepared?

Read This Before Our Next Meeting not only explains what’s wrong with “the meeting,” and meeting culture, but suggests how to make meetings more effective, efficient, and worthy of attending. It assesses when it’s necessary to skip the meeting and get right to work.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting is the call to action you (or your boss) need to create the organization that does the meaningful work it was created to do.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The profound tragedy of meetings is that everyone feels a benefit from calling a meeting but few of us benefit from attending.

Church leaders know in a real and visceral way that they have too many meetings, and too many of those meetings are bad! The resulting broken meeting culture is changing how teams focus, what they focus on, and most important, what decisions are made.

Ministry is a complex beast, and meetings can help tame the beast – but only meetings that insure intelligent decisions are made and to confirm that our teams are collaborating together in carrying out those decisions.

Church ministry teams don’t need standard, mediocre meetings that are all about making excuses and engaging in internal politics. It’s those types of meetings that keep leaders from doing the real ministry work they were called to do.

Traditional meetings are treated as just another form of communication. They’re just another item to be included in the same category as e-mail, memos, and phone calls. Meetings are too expensive and disruptive to justify using them for the most common types of communication, like making announcements, clarifying issues, or even gathering intelligence.

Seven Principles of the Modern Meeting

  1. The Modern Meeting convenes to support a decision that has already been made. The Modern Meeting focuses on the only two activities worth convening for: conflict and coordination.

  2. The Modern Meeting moves fast and ends on schedule. Traditional meetings seem to go on forever, with no end in sight. Strong deadlines force parties to resolve the hard decisions necessary for progress.

  3. The Modern Meeting limits the number of attendees. If you have no strong opinion, have no interest in the outcome, and are not instrumental for any coordination that needs to take place, you aren’t needed in the meeting.

  4. The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared. The agenda should clearly state the problem, the alternatives, and the decision. It should outline exactly the sort of feedback requested, and it should end with a statement of what this meeting will deliver if it’s successful. Anything that’s not on the agenda doesn’t belong in the meeting.

  5. The Modern Meeting produces committed action plans. These plans should include at least the following: 1) What actions are we committing to? 2) Who is responsible for each action? 3) When will these actions be completed?

  6. The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory. Teams must share complete thoughts that are actually worth reading and responding to – and everyone must read it all in advance.

  7. The Modern Meeting works only alongside a culture of brainstorming. These sessions are dedicated to the creation of possibilities, a place where the imagination is allowed to run free and generate a plethora of ideas, from which innovation can be born.

Al Pittampalli, Read This Before Our Next Meeting

A NEXT STEP

Management genius Peter Drucker said that meetings were by definition a concession to deficient organization. Teams can either meet or work, but they can’t do both at the same time.

It’s time for your ministry team to do real work through a revised meeting structure by taking the following actions:

  • Distribute the Seven Principles of the Modern Meeting listed above and ask your team members to review and reflect on them for the purpose of supporting the decision to establish a Modern Meeting process.
  • Schedule a one-hour time in which each member of your team will prepare concerns and solutions to implementing the Modern Meeting process in ministry setting.
  • Following this meeting, develop a set of action plans to implement the Modern Meeting process for a three-month trial period.
  • Throughout the trial period, constantly reinforce progress and concerns via information shared among all team members.
  • As a part of the trial, schedule weekly brainstorming sessions to help support the Modern Meeting process (see #7 above).
  • At the conclusion of the trial period, decide and commit on following – or not following – the Modern Meeting process.

Many church leaders view meetings as a necessary evil to accomplish ministry assignments and tasks. The solution presented above demonstrates that not all meetings are necessary, and the right kind of meeting doesn’t have to be evil.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 8-3 published February, 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

(Brain) Death by Meeting

Participants in organizations around the world have long suspected it, but now there is some evidence to back it up:

Meetings may make you “brain dead.”

“You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain-dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain-dead as well,” Read Montague, the study leader, wrote in the Carilion, a Virginia Tech Research Institute publication.

Somewhere, Patrick Lencioni is smiling.

Lencioni, a noted author, speaker, and consultant on leadership and organizational principles, wrote a book in 2004 entitled “Death by Meeting.”

Even though It’s been around awhile, it’s worth taking a look at – and one of the best ways to do that is by taking a quiz.

Here’s the quiz; go ahead and take it – I’ll wait. 

Back already? You must have a meeting to go to! Or else you figured out that his suggested answers are on the next page of the quiz.

Lencioni believes that there are four basic types of meetings:

  • Daily Check-in, lasting 5-10 minutes
  • Weekly Tactical, lasting 45-90 minutes
  • Monthly Strategic, lasting 2-4 hours
  • Quarterly Off-Site Review, lasting 1-2 days

Check here for a complete description. Looking for quick tips for effective meetings? Check out these 5 great ideas.

Remember – as a leader, the meetings you run are a direct reflection on your leadership skills, preparation, and effectiveness.

And you don’t want any brain-dead team members around the table.