Three Things to Demand Before Going to Any Business Meeting

meetingoneDuring my first day of each interim CEO / COO assignment, inevitably I’m invited to what I’m told is an important meeting.  And often I refuse.  Agreeing with the points made by University of Chicago professor Reid Hastie in his NY times article, “Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time,” one of the first things I suggest changing at each company is how meetings are handled.

1231The approach I use is simple; I usually refuse the very first meeting to which I’m invited – no matter how important the subject may appear – by stating that I’ll only accept meeting invitations that include three things.  1.  The objective we will achieve by the designated end time; i.e., the purpose of the meeting  2.  The agenda we’ll follow during the meeting.  3.  And the homework required of each attendee before the meeting starts.

The objective cannot be “to discuss…”; it needs to be a decision or an action.  Not “We’ll discuss why sales are 20% below plan” but rather “We’ll decide why sales are 20% below plan and then we’ll decide what actions to take to fix it.”  The agenda ideally includes specific blocks of time for presenting, discussing, and then deciding.  As for homework, when I do attend my first meeting I start by asking, “Did anyone not have time to do the homework?”  If someone admits they did not complete the homework, the meeting is rescheduled for a time when everyone is prepared.

A few other things:  I make it clear it’s ok to refuse an invitation if you feel you do not need to be there; just don’t cry later about the decisions that are made in your absence!   Action items – which can only be assigned to those in attendance – should be reviewed and agreed at the end of the meeting.  And, as Hastie points out, every meeting must end precisely on time.  As he’d agree, one of the most precious things each employee has is his or her time.

3 Responses to “Three Things to Demand Before Going to Any Business Meeting”

  1. Claudia Says:

    Thanks, Des, and three cheers for efficiency in the conference room!

  2. Considering An Electronic Assistant And Buying One :Free Info Vault Says:

    […] Three Things to Demand Before Going to Any Business Meeting … […]

  3. Change Agent Des Says:

    I’ve been giving this “efficient meeting” advice for 3 years, but #DarrenHardy adds advice on having a referee, (a role I usually take on.) A 3 minute read.

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