Meetings are expensive and our natural inclination is to do them poorly. They may be the riskiest things we do in an average work week. That’s probably why they get such a bad rap.
But when it comes to collaborating, motivating, re-syncing a geographically dispersed team or having a difficult conversation, nothing beats direct, person-to-person conversations - aka meetings.
The solution isn’t to stop having meetings. The solution is to stop having unnecessary meetings and to stop having crappy meetings.
Only have good meetings that matter. Here’s how: Treat every meeting like a military special forces mission.
Inviting people to the meeting = Asking the President/Prime Minister to send in the special forces
The two questions you’d get from the other end of the line on that call are “What’s the mission?” and “Why do you need the special forces?”
These are the right questions and you’d better have good answers.
You’d never make that phone call without being able to state the mission clearly and quickly. Never. Because the person on the other end of the line is important. So are your people. If you can’t write down - in just a couple of short bullet points - exactly what your meeting is going to accomplish then you have no business sending the invitation.
And why do you need the special forces? The special forces are really expensive. Before you fire off your invite ask yourself if you can accomplish the mission less expensively with a phone call, email or text. People will be asking themselves (and maybe even asking you) this same question during your meeting.
Preparing for the meeting = Pre-mission planning and prep
How many special forces missions happen without advance planning and preparation? It’s a silly question. The answer is zero and for obvious reasons.
If your reason for meeting isn’t important enough to warrant a few minutes of prep on your part, then it probably doesn’t warrant a meeting. Good preparation is a long lever. Doing just a little bit of it gives you a lot better chance of having a successful meeting.
Holding the meeting = Executing a high stakes, quick strike mission
When the special forces execute a mission they don’t start a few minutes late, spend the first few minutes bullsh*tting about stuff that doesn’t matter and then get distracted and abandon the mission halfway through when a Squirrel scampers across their path.
There’s a lot at stake. Success is only possible when everyone knows what the mission is and executes with energy and focus.
Same is true with your meeting. There’s a ton at stake. The cost of everyone’s time. The opportunity cost of what everyone could be doing instead. Your reputation. Attendees’ motivation and belief in you/your company.
Then you can all get back to work and home to your families.
Full disclosure: I’m not and never have been a member of any military special forces group. Nor do I have any special insight into their workings. If anything I have written here is inaccurate, you have my apologies. I liked the analogy and I ran with it. Cheers :)