Do people show up to your meetings fully prepared? Can you be prepared for the meetings you attend? I would lay odds that most of you are prepared for high-stakes meetings, but not for most others.
Consultants are prepared for client sessions. Executives are ready for meetings with the CEO or their senior boss. Few are prepared for standing meetings, project team meetings, or training.
Are your days double- and triple-booked, waiting to evolve the final plan? Do you go home and eat with your family, put your kids to bed, and get back to your emails? Worse yet, are you double-booked at home, working while waiting for the waitress or the school play to begin?
This isn’t an indictment, because I totally understand how busy or intense our work schedules are these days, topped by our demanding home life.
However, I hear and feel frustration about the lack of productive meetings we all attend. And, with the double- and triple-booked days, how does one prepare for it all?
Five Keys to More Sanity and Less Guilt and Apologies
It’s a fact. We have more meetings to prepare for than possible. So, what can we do?
- Be clear about the intended outcome and what preparation by whom is needed. So often the purpose and what is expected is not explicit.
- If it’s your meeting, make it clear that you expect that preparation and hold people accountable (including ending the meeting if not enough people are prepared).
- Distill down the “tomes” of information on a topic so that what you send as advance material is easily accessible and short.
- Build time into the meeting if you cannot or should not expect people to prepare. I have found that teams often need 5-10 minutes to review material before we begin.
- When you know people won’t, don’t expect prepared meeting attendees—plan for how to manage to your desired endpoints.
And, be prepared as much as is humanly possible. But don’t say “I was too busy.” “I was sick.” “It’s been insane.” or any variation on the theme. Most of those phrases fall so flat, and often hide our guilt with a veiled apology. The other person likely has done the same in at least one or two meetings that day, nodding now to your excuse. Simply say, “I’m not fully prepared for this topic. What can we accomplish?”
Today, see if you can identify the purpose and implied preparation for each of your meetings. Clarify each day’s meetings, especially the ones you lead. And, let me know how you find the rest of the week.