Deciding the Desired Outcome of Meetings Before They Begin
Meetings are the hard labor of the modern organization.
They are costly, time-consuming, and essential. When meetings are ineffective, they have a profound effect on team productivity. Lacking a shared understanding of the current issues and how the team will address them gets everyone running at cross purposes.
To achieve team success, meetings need to be as highly engaging and on-point as leaders can make them.
Everyone knows that effective meetings rely on thoughtful agendas to keep the discussions on track and team members focused on the issue at hand. Any meeting without a well-defined agenda suffers the fate of wasteful conversations and continual digression away from what needs to be discussed.
As important as agendas are to direct conversational traffic, there is an even more important device for making meetings more productive.
The best leaders always state the desired outcome of the meeting before it begins.
Knowing the desired outcome of a meeting defines success before the discussions begin. This helps the team leader decide who should attend the meeting and how the agenda will shape and organize progress toward the outcome.
Crafting a meeting agenda without first clearly articulating the desired outcome is akin to buying ingredients for a meal without knowing the dish. By working backward from the desired outcomes of a meeting, leaders can craft an agenda that works to ensure the most productive discussions toward the end goal.
The desired outcomes of a meeting vary widely. Stronger relationships within the team, a shared understanding of a problem, alignment on a shared goal, answers to a set of questions, a decision to address a problem or opportunity, agreement about a path forward, a list of concerns regarding a new policy, the action steps for implementing a new strategy. The list is expansive.
Prior to the launch of a meeting, the best leaders introduce the desired outcomes of the meeting, stating them clearly so that everyone knows exactly what the conversation is expected to achieve. Letting everyone know the specific result that must be achieved in the meeting helps to keep everyone on track and encourages team members to stay within the bounds of the defined purpose.
It’s amazing how this clarity impacts the effectiveness of any meeting.
We might think this simple device is widely used in meetings across the globe. Truth be known, meetings that begin with clearly articulated outcomes are the exception, not the rule, in nearly all organizations.
Sometimes, simplicity is not as obvious as we like to think.
Great article as usual. As you say there are meetings for different purposes.
Sometimes a meeting to build team cohesion needs more of an open agenda that is less of a transactional type meeting. Often I find “efficient” meetings can be cold.
For some people working remotely these seasons can be the only human contact they get in a day so missing the human element can be very costly for an organisation or team.