If you want to cut a meeting in half, set an objective from the beginning. No one leaves the meeting until that one objective is met.
I’m a big proponent of calendaring your wins. The basic concept is that you don’t manage your calendar by what you will be doing or working on. You only ever manage your calendar by what you will complete, create, or produce. The value of time is not measured by your actions in minutes or hours. The value of time is what you experience and what you have to show for those minutes or hours.
Given that, I would say you could take the same approach to business meetings that you do to your personal calendar. Rather than meeting to talk about something, what about a meeting to DECIDE something?
See how much more powerful that is?
To do so, set an objective for the meeting, every time. We are meeting today in order to make a decision on how to proceed with ________.
We’re not going to talk about tangential issues. We are also not going to take the time to discuss the issue. We will only discuss the necessary parameters around making a collective decision.
Does that feel uncomfortable or confusing? Here is the distinction: if you’re doing it right, people are informed BEFORE the meeting. Need to read something about the issue in question? Do it before the meeting. Need to get someone up to speed on the latest development that might influence the decision? Do it before the meeting. The meeting is ONLY to make a decision.
That’s fine for leaders and executives, but I don’t have decision-making power.
Wrong. Can you set up a meeting with others? If the answer is yes, you have all the authority you need to set an objective and communicate what decision needs to be made.
Typical meeting request: 60 minute meeting to discuss the dip in sales in the last quarter and how to address it/ correct it.
Typical meeting result: Lots of discussion about what the figures are, what they mean, brainstorming what we can do differently, who will take what offline, and another meeting set to discuss progress next week.
Alternative meeting request: 30 minute meeting to come up with 3 new activities to increase sales next quarter compared to last quarter. Here are the sales data, read it beforehand. If you have questions, ask beforehand. Come to the table with at least 2 suggestions that the group, why you think it will work, and we will vote for the final 3 new activities.
Typical meeting result: Everyone has done their homework. Go around the table, and everyone describes their 2 suggestions and why they believe each would have a positive impact. There is a vote on the 3 ideas that will be implemented, or the person with decision-making power decides on the spot. Implementation occurs offline.
Another 30 minute meeting is set next week to CONFIRM progress, and DECIDE on how to remove any barriers to implementation that come up (and guess what – barriers need to be circulated ahead of time, and people come to the table with suggestions on how to address, you vote on solutions, etc.)
This is a good meeting: name your objective/ state what needs to be decided, give people homework beforehand, cut the meeting time in half and make that one decision at the meeting.