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Make the Most of Meetings

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According to a 2010 study by Inc. Magazine, more than 11 million formal meetings are held in the United States each day, which total more than 3 billion meetings in corporate America each year. The study found that 71 percent of employees surveyed said meetings weren’t productive. Those same employees said that of the meetings they attend, 25 percent of the time is spent on irrelevant issues.

Former President Ronald Regan once quipped, “I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency — even if I’m in a Cabinet meeting.”

The word “meeting” has become synonymous with words like waste, boring, ineffective, long, tiring, and so on. Employees don’t like to attend meetings and employers don’t like to hold them. We’ve all been privy to ineffective meetings, long corporate presentations, and epoch conference calls that would make Alexander Graham Bell wish he’d never invented the telephone.

No one enjoys meetings, but everyone goes to them. Why? For precisely the reasons explained by the Inc. study. The act of meeting, no matter its perceptions, is critical to any businesses success. Meetings, in our minds, are necessary evils, though they don’t have to be.

The weekly staff meeting

Most, if not all businesses, have a weekly staff meeting. If your business is large enough, each division of the business may meet individually, and management may have their own separate time set aside.

Because of their nature, weekly staff meetings are often crammed full of a plethora of topics, a feeble attempt at stuffing everything into one, monumentally long gathering of minds.

Can you look yourself in the mirror and say that your weekly staff meeting is good enough? Does your weekly staff meeting maximize your team’s potential, clear channels for communication throughout different departments, answer questions and address issues that arise throughout the week? Can you accomplish all of this in one meeting? Better yet, is it wise to attempt to accomplish this in one meeting?

If you answered no to any of these questions, the “daily huddle” may be the answer to your prayers.

Verne Harnish introduced us to “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” in 2002 and one of the greatest tools Harnish provided in the book was the concept of a “daily huddle.” Inspired by the habits of business tycoon John D. Rockefeller, Varnish outlined Rockefeller’s concept that meeting on a daily basis vastly improved the effectiveness of a business’ success and maximized employee potential.

I was introduced to the daily huddle in 2007 by Paul Sponcia, the former president of a Knoxville-based information technology firm I worked for, and have used the huddle concept in my work as a consultant, and in my current role as a director of marketing and public relations at Brogan Financial.

A huddle is most synonymous with football. Before each play, the offense gathers in a huddle together, calls the upcoming play, and breaks the huddle with a clear understanding of their individual assignments for that play.

In a nutshell, the huddle cuts through the crap. It’s a rude awakening to the common perception of a “meeting.” It throws the traditional rules out the window. 

Here are the parameters you should set before your first huddle:

  • First, choose a time to meet as a team each morning. The time you set is up to you, but the huddle works best in the morning. Why? Simply because the morning is the start of the day, and it provides your team with a chance to communicate before moving out into the battlefield that is the workday.
  • Second, specify a unique time for the meeting. Meetings are typically scheduled on the hour or half hour, and subconsciously, their importance is lost in our minds. Instead of meeting at 8:30 each morning, announce to your team that you’ll be meeting at 8:17 a.m. Because this is a unique time, they won’t forget.
  • Third, establish the length of the meeting. Depending on the size of your organization, the huddle should be five to 10 minutes at the most. Ensuring that your huddle doesn’t exceed the time limit is dependent upon the ability of the employee who leads the meeting to keep the team on task.
  • Everyone attends. Period.
  • If you have an operations manager, let him or her lead the meeting. The CEO/president/owner can be part of this meeting, but in my opinion, should be a participant and not the leader.
  • Chose a location for the huddle. It can be a conference room, the kitchen, you name it.

Here is the structure I recommend for the meeting itself:

  • Good News: Ask each team member to share good news with the team as a whole. This is non-work related news only. The purpose of the good news section is to foster a personal connection between team members, which in turn, creates unity. As an example, a few weeks ago, I shared the good news that I’d won a game of ping pong, even though my wife is a ping pong shark.
  • Top Three: Ask each team member to share the top three things they’re working on for the day. This allows the rest of the team to be aware of others’ deadlines, tasks, meetings and out-of-office activities. It also serves as an accountability measure for the team. Top priorities often take more than one day to complete, and generally require the participation of at least one other team member.
  • Bottlenecks: Ask each team member to share any “bottleneck” issues they may be facing. The purpose of the “bottleneck” section allows other team members an opportunity to offer assistance to their team members and often results in cooperative problem-solving, which improves the efficiency of the team and daily operations.
  • Core Values: The last section of the huddle is reserved for reviewing your company’s values and mission statement. Though repetitive, this is an opportunity to remind each staff member how they should conduct themselves throughout the day and what priorities are on a larger scale.

That’s it. Implement a daily huddle into your business and watch the productivity and communication between your team grow in exponential ways.

See also:

Time is Money

Improve Your Post-Meeting Efficiency

Building a Team for the Future

Your Mission Begins with a Statement


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