This week’s guest post comes from the CEB Sales Leadership Council, whose members also spend a lot of time in cross-functional meetings.
When done well, meetings allow people to do their jobs more effectively. In practice, though, meetings rarely produce enough benefits to justify the time they take up, giving credence to the cynics who describe meetings as “the most frustrating exercises in pointlessness ever to have been invented.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. A recent Google Ventures presentation offered tips that startups and multinational corporations alike have been using to make meetings as pleasant—and productive—as possible. Below, we distill their insights about the five types of meetings that you’re probably doing wrong and suggest how to turn your situation around.
Meeting #1: The Brainstorming Session
You’re hoping to: Solve a tough problem with the knowledge and creativity of a diverse group of colleagues.
What goes wrong: Chaos ensues. One person has no idea what the meeting is about, so you spend the first ten minutes updating them. A few people dominate the conversation while others struggle to contribute or simply stay quiet. One person thinks they already know how to solve the problem and spends the entire meeting lobbying the group to go with their proposal.
- Keep them small. Better to have three separate meetings with four people than one big meeting with twelve people.
- Keep them scoped. It’s important to know what problem you’re there to solve, but it’s even more important to know what problems you aren’t there to solve. If you aren’t clear about that, someone will inevitably push the conversation to an inappropriately high altitude. CEB Market Insights members, check out all of our scoping tools to help keep your meetings on track.
- Designate a facilitator. It’s impossible to be deeply creative while also watching the clock and tracking group dynamics. Let the facilitator take care of ensuring that the meeting is running on schedule and that everyone is participating an appropriate amount.
- Make sure you want a brainstorming session. If there’s a decision to be made, run it like a decision meeting (see below). “Brainstorming” meetings are often decision meetings in disguise; the person organizing the meeting wants to make a certain decision, but they also want to seem like a collaborative colleague, so they call the meeting a “brainstorming session.” Don’t let this happen.
Meeting #2: Decision Making