7 Questions to Help You Gauge How Effective Your Meetings Really Are
“Effective” is one of those omnipresent words in business, and most of us seem to be chasing some aspect of effectiveness in our work lives, me included. Considering how much time organizations spend in meetings, up to 300,000 hours a year for a single, weekly meeting by one account, there’s a need to make every minute spent in meeting count.
But, what do we really mean when we say we want meetings to be effective? My colleagues and I have adopted a perspective based on a well-known Japanese book about meeting management. It makes the case that effective meetings are creative, active and efficient.
Creative means that team members have the opportunity to express themselves fully and build on each others' ideas (regardless of whether or not there is agreement). Creating the right atmosphere for this is essential to build consensus and commitment for the decisions your team makes.
Active means that team members share all of their opinions and that there is an equal distribution of who talks during the meeting. Research from MIT shows that doing this helps boost a team’s so-called collective intelligence.
Efficient means that the team members deliver the meeting outputs during a planned, fixed period of time.
So, how can you gauge how effective your meetings are? You can start by asking answering these seven questions:
To gauge the level of Creativity:
- Were you able to free yourself from entrenched or otherwise limiting ways of thinking?
- Did the meeting lead to a new result or an innovative idea?
To gauge the level of Activity:
- Were all the members able to contribute in a meaningful way?
- Was there a diversity of perspectives, opinions shared?
- Was there conflict and was it managed constructively?
To gauge the level of Efficiency:
- Did the meeting start and finish on time?
- Did the meeting produce the outputs planned?
To help set the stage for effective meetings, consider making a standing agreeing with your colleagues on four basic principles:
- Respect – No personal attacks. Steer clear of discussing an individual’s character, and instead discuss the issues and matters at hand.
- Responsibility – Accept that the success or failure of a meeting is your responsibility as a meeting participant. Don’t rely solely on the meeting host of facilitator to do this.
- Thorough Discussion – Intentionally redirect the conversation or ask for new points of view when you see a bias developing in the conversation.
- Open, Information Sharing – Actively share all the valuable, relevant information you have with all the meeting members.
Creating and maintaining a culture of highly effective meetings takes commitment and lots of practice. And taking time after each meeting to review what went well and what can be improved will help you get there.