Disciplined Leadership: Low-Value Meetings Vs High-Value Meetings

This is part of a series of blogs on the theme of ‘Disciplined Leadership.’

Low-Value Meetings are caused by people not valuing one another’s time. These meetings are also indicators of a number of negative factors in your current culture. People often believe that if they can get everybody together in some forum at the same time, then they’ll be more productive than they would be if they were operating separately or asynchronously. There’s no major evidence to substantiate that belief, however.

In meeting-heavy organizations, too much time spent in meetings is wasted, particularly when these Low-Value Meetings occur back-to-back. I know many executives who live in this meeting environment, and they freely admit it’s a source of constant frustration. It’s almost impossible to go into consecutive meetings well-informed or come out of them with useful takeaways and outcomes.

Following up is nearly impossible. Low-Value Meetings (LVMs) often result in low attendee morale. Employees are not going to be smiling and making a lot of eye contact, because they’re not having fun and they don’t feel appreciated. They believe meetings are just a grind. LVMs are a serious drain on morale, and they stifle cultural growth and creativity.

LVMs usually lack structure, having no clear agenda, and many Low-Value Meeting conversations consist of one person briefing his or her statistics or data to the leader of the group. While this is happening, everyone else in the room isn’t paying attention because they’re either preparing to give their report or they’ve mentally checked out after having their turn.

Think about your experiences. How many times do you remember a recent meeting? Most of us have no recollection of them beyond a couple of hours after they’ve ended. We’ve moved on. And that’s because we were not invested in the meetings in the first place. When we believe we have little value in being part of the meeting audience in the first place, and we spend most of the session just sitting there, it’s no wonder the event is forgettable.

To make matters worse, in Low-Value Meetings, the leader usually speaks first. When the leader speaks first, any healthy discussion or differing views about how to address an issue are now much less likely to surface. Unfortunately, everybody else in the room is less inclined to differ with his opinion, and instead will reply with something along the lines of, “Great idea Boss!”— even though they may have a much better, more productive idea. Team members are going to be too intimidated to come forward. After all, no one wants to rock the boat.

Leaders of High-Value Meetings take a completely different approach. Contrary to the Low-Value Meeting, the best meetings are held one-on-one. This is when you can read body language, listen to tone, and sense what’s really being said. (If a one-on-one meeting is virtual, then video is almost always a must-have, not just audio-only.)

High-Value Meetings take more time than group meetings, but this is time well spent. When there are times when larger meetings make sense, the leader speaks last, yielding the floor to his subordinates so they can make their opinions known without fear of contradicting the boss.

High-Value Meetings are structured to not waste time. They have a published agenda. They have specific topics that will be discussed and decisions that will be made. High-Value Meetings have outcomes and deliverables where attendees are assigned tasks. Participants are able to report on their progress at the next meeting to show how much closer they are to reaching a goal. The best meetings aren’t scheduled right before or after other meetings, so participants have time to prepare beforehand and to process the information afterward.

If your team is drifting into LVMs, consider making changes. The results will speak for themselves.

We're All InThis blog is based on material from my book “We’re All In.” You can get a copy of the first chapter for free here.

If you’d like a full copy of the entire book, you can get it here.

Enjoy the journey!


(Based on a post originally published May 2019)

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