You know the feeling you get when you come back from a great vacation and get on the scale to only see chocolate cake and red wine staring back up at you? The feeling that makes you think, “oh right, that’s why I don’t eat gelato every night”? Well, I do and I definitely don’t like it. No one likes to feel heavy. Looks like it’s time to ditch the dessert. I realized that this feeling was also reflected at work. We recently added some awesome members to our (already awesome) team, and were definitely indulging in their greatness. However, things were beginning to feel heavier. Meetings were running longer, days were ending later, and calendars were becoming fuller. If eating lean is the secret to losing the post-vacation pudge, shouldn’t we be meeting lean to get rid of our excess work-weight?
Ten Tricks to Meeting Lean:
Have an agenda for every meeting
If you’re the one calling the meeting, make sure to create an agenda reflecting the talking points at hand. Send the agenda out with the meeting invite so all attendees come prepared and any questions can be addressed beforehand. Having an agenda line itemed by time can be especially helpful in status meetings and/or project checkpoints. This gives each person on the time an allotted amount of time to convey their input in an efficient and concise fashion. Giving each person their 15 (or five) minutes of fame will alleviate fighting for time to talk.
Work in smaller teams
More isn’t always merrier. To save time and increase productivity, try breaking the meeting into two parts or steps. Work individually or directly with someone else on a proposal or action item you want to present with your team or manager. Then, schedule a shorter meeting to review the work. This way, not everyone is sitting through your workflow. This also will give you the advantage to set the tone and receive feedback.
Although it never was fun being picked last for kickball teams when we were younger, I think we’ve all grown up a bit. Be sure when you’re calling meetings that you are responsible for making sure everyone in attendance is applicable to the conversation. Having too many people in a meeting can make it difficult to get the most of your time. Think: the more people you invite to a party, the less punch for everyone. When sending invites, ask yourself questions like (1) is this agenda relevant to this person? (2) do I want/need this person’s feedback? (3) what do I hope to learn/hear from this person? (4) will this person benefit from being in this meeting? (5) is this a priority for this person? Use these to craft your invitee list.
Cut back, not out
I’m not saying get rid of meetings all together. That’d be like saying only eat lettuce! At my company, we have optional all staff meetings weekly and ongoing team meetings regularly. Just be sure to use your time wisely. If things are busy, try cutting back your 60 minute meetings to 40 minutes or scheduling every other week as opposed to weekly. We’re not into crash dieting. Still incorporate the avocados — we love healthy fats!
Take notes and post them
Delegate a notetaker in each meeting and have them mark-up the agenda with your key learnings from your discussion and action items. This makes for a great reference points and makes it easy for people who were unable to attend the meeting. Use your company’s intranet source (podio, basecamp, slack, email, etc.) to post the notes. This ensures that the notes will be accurate, thorough, and accessible.
Have standing meetings
In our office, people tend to flock to our standing desk areas throughout the day. Getting the blood flowing for 20 minutes helps increase their productivity and we’re all for it. What if you scheduling standing meetings? This will help employees stay in-tune with their bodies and probably keep meetings from lasting 60 minutes. Just saying :)
Call to action items
At the end of each meeting, allot fifteen seconds to each attendee to share their action items. Not only does this ensure that everyone is on the same page, but it also creates an agenda for the next meeting. By having each person share their immediate action plan, teams will know what to expect upon next meeting. This allows for clear communication on who is doing what and proves that the meeting was effective. If you find yourself with no action items after attending an entire meeting, you may need to rethink your attendance.
If you aren’t engaged in the conversation or contributing to the progress of a particular meeting, you aren’t doing yourself — or anyone — any favors by being there. If the environment is permitting, like in an internal checkpoint or weekly update, feel free to excuse yourself. To stay informed, try reading the meeting notes or joining for the call to action items.
It’s okay to say no
There are only so many hours in the day, and even less in the work day. If you don’t have time to meet, you can’t make the time. Take a look at the agenda provided beforehand and prioritize from there. Never compromise quality work for a meeting that won’t benefit you. Read the notes after the meeting is finished or schedule a quick debrief with one member of the team. If you know you aren’t able to make a meeting but need some issues addressed, add them to the agenda.
Use a safe word
Establish a “safe” word or phrase throughout the company to use in a meeting when things aren’t going to plan. No one likes to be thrown under the bus, but sometimes you need a slight reminder to get your head in the game. It’s easy to lose track of time — especially when you’re working on something that you’re really passionate about. By implementing a safe word/phrase, meetings can get back on on track quickly and easily. In our office, we chose the phrase LAMTAM (Look At Me Talk About Me) to signal people. For example: Going over your time limit? LAMTAM. Talking about something irrelevant? LAMTAM. Ping-pong arguing on a small issue? LAMTAM.
Like any diet, these tricks take getting used to but, in time, will make you feel great. While Motivate Design is working on it’s six-pack, we still enjoy a cupcake every now and then. Do whatever feels right for you and for your situation. Maybe it’s a mix of these, maybe it’s all ten. What’s important is that you’re working toward a goal of being leaner. When’s a better time than summer to get in shape? ;)