In your manufacturing business, there is often nothing worse (from your team’s perspective) than a bad meeting. The problem is that many leaders don’t recognize a bad meeting when they see one because THEY are the ones leading them. We’re not trying to bust your chops, we’ve all done it, and with the best of intentions. But intentions don’t translate into effectiveness… we just need to learn how to do meetings better and make it happen.
This post is about that. We’re going to walk through 3 principles you can apply to make your meetings more effective and enjoyable for everyone involved, and give you some tips on how to put those principles into practice.
The anatomy of a bad meeting
If we are going to fix our meetings it will be helpful to know the extent of the problem. How bad are your meetings, really? Move through the list below and mentally tick the box on each one that is true of YOUR typical company meeting.
Participants seem bored or are zoned out at times
Topics covered seem Irrelevant to at least some of the participants
Rabbit trails are a common experience during discussion
The conversation is often disconnected from clear data or reliable metrics
The leader of the meeting is the only one speaking
Side conversations occur during meetings
You have to twist people’s arms or threaten consequences to get any attendance
How did you do? Are your meetings in need of a tune-up? Keep reading to learn what you can do!
How to lead better meetings
Good meetings are a product of clear purpose. You need to know why you’re having a meeting, what needs to happen, and how to engage the people who attend. In his book, “Death by Meeting,” Patric Lencioni says there are three steps you can take to make your meetings hit all these targets.
1 - Set the table and raise the stakes with a hook
This simply means that instead of announcing your meeting in a typical fashion, “We have a production meeting at 10 AM on Tuesday,” provide the incentive and expectations that will get people motivated to participate. You could make the following announcement instead:
“It’s important to the company’s leadership to be able to provide bonuses to the team based on production figures. Tuesday at 10AM we ask that you attend a conversation to discuss how we can optimize the opportunity for every team member to receive their next bonus.”
Do you see how that announcement made clear what would be discussed AND appealed to the desires of those attending? It answers the question, “What’s in it for the attendees?” and hooks them in with a legitimate and important reason they should want to attend.
2 - Encourage conflict and set expectations for the conflict
This one may sound a bit unconventional but stick with it. One of the LAST things you want is for team members to feel their perspective and concerns about the company and workplace culture are going unheard. For that reason, you need to provide contexts (meetings) in which every opinion can be heard and received graciously. Consider a statement like this as a jumping-off point in your next production meeting…
“I believe there are people in this room who have differing opinions about how we can optimize the production cycle. I want to hear what you think… all of you. It’s important that we get every idea out and onto the table so we can evaluate an approach that works for all of us and puts production back on track.”
That short introduction invites conflict for a greater purpose. It enlists everyone to engage in the process to reach a greater, common goal. But it also sets the expectation that though disagreement exists, everyone is on the same team, pulling together to the same destination.
3 - Don’t mix everything into one meeting
It’s very tempting to cram every topic and every need into one meeting since “everyone’s going to be there.” But this is the LAST thing you should do if you want your meetings to be effective. How do you know what topics belong in a meeting? Every meeting should have an overall purpose and the topics discussed should fit underneath that purpose. There needs to be a logical, obvious connection between each subject you discuss.
What happens to the topics that don’t make the cut? It’s likely that some of them don’t require an “all hands” type of meeting. Is there a way that the individuals directly related to those topics can have a separate, brief meeting to address them? Or perhaps you need to establish a different set of meetings that are held according to their own particular cadences.
4 types of meetings and when to have them
Patrick Lencioni suggests that most companies need at least four types of meetings.
Purpose: Succinct updates from all participants, coupled with encouragement from leadership and “need to know” information for that day only
Weekly tactical meeting
Focused on tactics and implementation of strategy
Purpose: On-the-spot problem solving and solutions for real-time issues
Monthly or Ad Hoc strategic meeting
Monthly or less
1 to 2 topics
Time provided to resolve each topic
Prep and research is done in advance
Embraces constructive conflict as needed
Quarterly off-site review
1 to 2 days duration
A “step-back from the fray” type of meeting
Wholistically review strategic direction, team, major issues on the horizon
Find creative solutions to your review
Limit social activities to ensure productivity
If you’re interested in making your company’s meetings better in 2022, apply the principles shared here. You can also pick up a copy of Patrick Lencioni’s book, “Death by Meeting” to learn more.