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Preparation = Effective Meetings

Lately I’ve been looking for ways to have more efficient meetings. Especially with new entrepreneurs. I’m spending half our time trying to understand what problem they’re solving and how their product or service solves it.

At CCAW, I held weekly one-on-one meetings with direct reports. My days were full, so I kept them to a strict 30 minutes. I spent most of that time peeling back layers and asking questions that would get the other person to reflect on what they wanted to talk about. That meant that the meeting was almost over before I understood what we should be talking about. In the end, the meetings were of little value.

Over time, I started using software to help. The day before each meeting, the software prompted my direct reports to answer these questions:

  1. What have you accomplished since the last time we met?
  2. What roadblocks have you encountered since we last met?
  3. What do you plan to accomplish before our next meeting?
  4. What are you most worried about today?

If they didn’t answer them, we wouldn’t meet.

This was powerful. Their preparation made our meetings more effective. They could see their previous responses, including what they’d committed to being responsible for. Formulating their answers required reflection and planning and instilled accountability. All of this made our meetings richer.

My own preparation was equally as helpful. I reviewed the answers beforehand. I compared actual accomplishments to planned accomplishments and made a point of discussing gaps. I set expectations and helped my people prioritize. I learned about challenges early and was usually able to address them before they turned into bigger issues. I went into each meeting ready to discuss the things that mattered most to that person and to CCAW’s objectives. The tone of my meetings changed, and people looked forward to them.

Consider preparing for your meetings more effectively and asking or requiring (depending on the context) the other person to do so too. Your meetings will be more productive and helpful.

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