Occasionally in this space I like to pass along general business advice outside of the financial realm. I am not trying to claim any great expertise in the area, but through my own journey and by watching and listening to those of my clients, there are some ideas that I know contain value. I found one of these earlier this week.
I was cleaning out my email when I noticed this article from Inc.com was claiming there were five words that make every meeting better. I have been in enough awful meetings in my life that I was compelled to look. I imagine I’m not the only who has been in those situations, so I’ll tell you those words here – “Who’ll do what by when?”
I’ll now try to leave aside my snarky immediate response that the contraction is a cheap device to make this come in at only five words. Besides that, I think this does get to the meat of the issue of why some meetings can feel so pointless.
Because it’s not all meetings that feel pointless. We leave some feeling that much has been accomplished and that much will continue to be accomplished. It is the ones where it feels like nothing got done that are so trying. You know, the ones that did not have an answer to those five (or six) words.
There is so much underlying those words that may seem obvious, but their explicit statement can make you feel more productive and on a good track. First is simple momentum. You want to be working on tasks that are leading somewhere. You want to be working with others who are working on tasks that are leading somewhere. Laying out where you are going helps the finish line feel closer.
Second is making your time feel valuable. If you’re meeting to just talk about how great you are and high-five each other over the table, then that meeting was unnecessary. There are parts of doing a job that just become part of the standard operation and they don’t need to be discussed. The time spend going those things is still worth something, but discussing them is not. If you can answer that five-word question at the end of meeting with something you haven’t done before, that is more valuable.
I want to finish now by focusing on the time element of the question. Note that it’s not only who is going to do what, but when. For you do want to keep up that momentum I mentioned, but it is going to feel pretty weak if the next steps are a year away. It may feel like not everything needs a deadline, and sure, some tasks are not pressing, but those tasks may never get done if they do not have a time element placed upon them.
So take this with you on how you approach meetings, and even how you approach your own work in your mind. Being deliberate keeps things in the front of your mind, keeps them moving forward, and helps see that they are accomplished.
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