You sit down at your desk with a hot cup of coffee ready to take on your to-do list. You decide to quickly check your email and there it is staring back at you. Another dreaded meeting invite for another meeting that you know will end up being unproductive! In a matter of seconds, your day takes a different turn. You reluctantly click “Accept” for the meeting and you know that your day is going to be different than you had planned.
David Grady gave a brilliant TED Talk on saving the world – well, at least ourselves and our teams – from terrible meetings. He says that a major problem is that most of us suffer from Mindless Accept Syndrome (MAS).
By default, science shows people automatically accept most meeting invites. We feel obligated to accept every invite we get. In psychology, compliance refers to changing one’s behavior due to the request or direction of another person. Unlike obedience, in which the other individual is in a position of authority, compliance does not rely upon being in a position of power or authority over others. In short, as leaders, we want our people to be compliant – if the behavior is necessary – without feeling like they have to be obedient. In the long run, we want to have followers – not prisoners!
So, be that leader who doesn’t schedule a meeting for everything. Also, be that leader who creates a culture that allows for employees to not suffer from MAS.
Research shows that the average worker spends at least three hours a week in meetings and that 71% of those meetings are considered unproductive. Great leaders know when and how to run an effective meeting. Great leaders know that bad meetings are not only a waste of time and resources, they lead to frustrated employees. Frustrated employees create a culture of contagious negativity. Calling enough bad meetings can lead to a decrease in the perceived value of future meetings – basically, employees get sick of the BS and stop taking them and YOU seriously.
One of the strategies for leading effective meetings, supported by research in the field of positive psychology, is “The Power Lead” which uses what psychologists call “positive priming.” “Positive priming” refers to the phenomenon where the first thing we’re exposed to in a situation (in this case a meeting) is positive and it leads to a ripple effect of more positive effects to our mindset and behavior. In short, by simply focusing on something good at the beginning of a meeting, it sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. Starting conversations on a positive note focuses the brain on growth-producing areas and encourages positivity in others, it helps teams and individuals accomplish tasks more quickly, find more creative solutions to problems, and recover from setbacks more quickly. Conversely, negative priming at the start of a meeting shuts people down and leads to poor performance.
- Rethink attendees – Strong leaders are always reevaluating who is invited to meetings. They are always re-deciding who REALLY needs to be there, who doesn’t, and who could be optional — and then communicating to the optional attendees that it really is optional and that it’s totally OK if they don’t wish to attend!
- Start meeting with what Chris calls a “Positive Lead” – Create and support a positive mindset with positive, optimistic, inspiring beginnings. You can also begin to use this in casual conversations and even email, text, and voicemail communications. Samples of “positive leads” are:
- Addressing the Wins. Have everyone present at the meeting to bring up a win – something good that has happened. Also, you can showcase one or two recent individual, team, or organizational accomplishments, no matter how small, and remind everyone how their individual achievements add up to a bigger company mission.
- Be Positive. Choose any positive topic and spend the first two minutes discussing it as a group. Topics could include sharing one thing a coworker did to help them or a small success that hasn’t gotten the attention of the larger group – or even a recent win by the company wellness committee.
- Put Resources in the Spotlight. Draw attention to available resources, which could include new hires or partnerships, existing strategic relationships, or even a new coffee maker in the break room – anything that helps make success and fun more accessible.
- Inspire Hope. Anything that helps generate hope for a brighter future can serve as a “Positive Lead.” Is the team close to hitting their sales target? How close is the team to that coveted year-end bonus? Is the team on track to earn the free pizza on Friday? Big or small, hope generates energy and engagement and can set the tone for a productive and even enjoyable meeting.
- Be Thankful. Mention something that you’re grateful for and how it impacted you. Go around the room and have each person list something that they are grateful for. Science shows that gratitude better prepares our brains for setbacks and resilience.
- Be More Organized:
- First, decide which type of meeting you are leading: Quick Update (focused on alignment and prioritization) or Longer Strategy (centered around planning, discussion, etc.)
- Second, designate a leader – even better – this person does not have to be you!
- Third, have an agenda.
- Fourth, set the expectations of the meeting. “At the end of this meeting, we will have X, Y, and Z.”
- Fifth, use time stamps – limit the engagement for each topic during the meeting.
- Be More Direct:
- During the meeting, have an open document or whiteboard to document where “additional questions or topics” are put in a “parking lot” that can be addressed at a later date. THIS keeps you OPEN – WHILE also keeping you direct!
Instead of starting your next meeting going over all of the problems and pain points, shift the focus to the positive first. Then, tackle the issues. Over the next couple of weeks, try out one of the meeting shifts mentioned above. Keep track of how the shift positively impacts the quality of your meetings, productivity, and level of fun! Report back here and leave a comment.
If you want to learn more about running effective meetings with your team, reach out to our team!