Meetings can slow down a company – or help to make great progress. At VAIVA, we have therefore developed a wide variety of measures in our participation process – from colleagues, for colleagues – to improve meetings and how we can ensure that guidelines are not just written on a piece of paper or decorate the screen, but are lived. We want to have the courage to cancel meetings that could have simply been an e-mail. And Vivian described for us how not to design and experience a meeting. Attention, irony follows!
I love meetings, really. Used correctly, after only 30 minutes in the morning, they give you the feeling that you have already worked 10 hours at a time and are ready for the end of the day. You don’t believe me? Then let me explain the perfect meeting to you so that you too can enjoy all these advantages.
What do you have to consider when inviting for a meeting?
The most important question, of course, first, who do we invite to the meeting? The only mistake you can make is to invite too few. The colleagues mentioned in a conversation at the coffee machine that they briefly heard something about the topic years ago? Invite them, they could give any contribution on the topic. In general, the more the better. After all, all colleagues can give their opinion on the topic and you have an open discussion in which every smallest detail can be illuminated. It is very important to invite those who have to make a decision in the end right from the start. In this way, they get to know the complete technical discussions in depth so that they can make an informed decision for the overall context in the end.
Which brings us to the topic. Don’t make the mistake of inviting you to a meeting with a specific precise topic or even a structured agenda. This only hinders the creativity and free exchange of ideas of colleagues. So it’s best to give only a vague description and the rest can be guessed somehow by the colleagues. You shouldn’t worry about time either. Start the meeting with a generous time frame, rather a little more than too little. After all, every participant should have enough time to express all his thoughts and you have to discuss them in detail.
If, contrary to expectations, there is still time left at the end, you can still do some small talk and the colleagues are certainly happy if they have a few minutes break until the next meeting. Under no circumstances should you stop on-going discussions. If the colleagues are in a free exchange of ideas then let them, something will come out of it. This also applies if a single point is raised again and again and the discussion turns in circles. Apparently, this point is important to one of the participants and so you should discuss it until the end. The other participants certainly understand this.
Also understand colleagues who are only partly at the meeting and keep typing on their notebook or mobile phone. This shows how busy and important they are and that you are actually lucky that they still participate in your meeting. It also shows you how important the topic is to them, because otherwise they would not have taken the time for your meeting in addition to all the other activities. If they ultimately say nothing in the meeting, it looks positive, because silence means approval. If you need the explicit opinion of such a colleague and they do not know what was discussed on request, simply discuss the matter again in detail, among other things we have planned a lot of time for such cases. Also for other colleagues this has the advantage that they get all the information summarized again and if necessary, one or the other still new questions arise.
Finally, it should be mentioned that you can save yourself all the documentation effort. You would not have to document decisions made or record who has to do what by when. After all, you have invited all the people who might be affected by the topic and so everyone knows directly about what was discussed. If someone has been assigned a task, this someone also knows directly and for everyone else this is not relevant, so why do they annoy with boring meeting minutes?
What do you have to consider when you are invited to a meeting?
First of all, don’t go into a meeting too ambitious. No one expects that useful results will be available after 2 hours. If you want to discuss topics in detail, then do so. It is important that all arguments are heard and concerns are completely eliminated. After all, that’s what meetings are for. If, contrary to expectations, an agenda or a specific topic has been sent with the invitation, do not let it put you under pressure. These are only rough suggestions and if one of the points is particularly important to you, then discuss it until you are satisfied with the result.
With points that are less important to you or do not affect you at all, you can just listen. Maybe you will get some useful information. If you do not understand everything because this is not your subject area, do not be afraid to ask for basic facts or to have basic knowledge explained to you. Colleagues are certainly happy to do this. Of course, you can also use these times to quickly do other work on your notebook or mobile phone. So the other participants immediately see that you are busy with important things and if they do need a statement from you, they can ask directly. Of course, no one will expect you to know immediately what it is about, after all, you were busy with other things. So also here, do not be afraid to ask what it is currently about and what the current point of discussion is. Here, too, the colleagues will willingly explain the facts to you and explain it in detail.
However, if you have discussion points that are particularly important to you, do not be dissuaded from them and discuss them completely. This is the only way the meeting can deliver clear results. If you turn in circles in the meeting because the other participants repeatedly disagree with your arguments, that’s not too bad. After all, you have to convince everyone of your view, so it may take a little longer. But that’s what meetings are for.
If a decision is made in the course of a meeting or you receive a task directly, you do not have to log it. Everyone who is concerned by the decision is in the meeting and important tasks that have been assigned to you will remember anyway. In case of doubt, if anything was forgotten, then it was probably not so important. If you stick to these few principles in every meeting, you’ll get a perfect mix of fruitless discussions with far too many people in unstructured meetings that are far too long. Decisions are communicated unclear, half of the participants do not notice them and tasks are not neatly assigned or forgotten. If you don’t want to go straight back to work after such a meeting in the morning, you probably have no interest in meaningful work.