A Meeting About Meetings

Posted October 26, 2016 by   in Client Communication, The Springboard Culture

As the new kid on the block here at Springboard, I’m learning the ins and outs of our team culture, values and work styles. We have an amazing team here and they’ve done a great job of making me feel welcome. I spent a lot of my first couple weeks observing, listening and asking questions. (Thankfully, they’re a patient bunch as well!)

One of the themes that you see on a daily basis around Springboard is a commitment to continual learning. We regularly share things we are reading that will help us with our day-to-day jobs, both for our client partners and our own team. We also have a Book Club that the whole team participates in to read a book together and discuss how it applies to us both personally and professionally.

The team had just finished “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” before I came onboard and were contemplating what the next book should be. Because it had such a big impact on the last team I was on, and because it is such an interesting and entertaining read, I suggested “Death by Meeting,” by Patrick Lencioni. I think the title was intriguing enough that everyone was on board with the recommendation.

Meetings generally have a bad rap. We consider them a “necessary evil” of our jobs. They are usually a point of frustration, something we prefer to complain about, or even avoid altogether.

However, Lencioni considers meetings “the activity most central to the running of our organizations.” They are a vehicle for improving efficiency and decision-making. I loved this quote from the book: “There is simply no substitute for a good meeting- a dynamic, passionate, and focused engagement- when it comes to extracting the collective wisdom of a team.”

The book does a great job of keeping you engaged and even entertained while teaching you principles and guidelines for creating productive and compelling meetings. Two-thirds of the book is a business fable that invites you into the world of a fictitious business and the process they go through to improve their meetings. The last third of the book outlines the model the characters worked through. This week, Springboard will be having what we are affectionately calling the “Meeting about Meetings” to dive into how we can apply what we’ve read to our own meetings. While this is definitely a work in progress, our Book Club conversations thus far have brought out some really exciting takeaways. Here are some of our big insights:

  • We are choosing to believe that meetings can be both engaging and effective. Instead of making unnecessary demands on people’s time, we are committing to creating more clarity around the purpose, format and timing of our meetings.
  • Engaging in healthy conflict is such an important part of both meetings and team dynamics. A large part of why people don’t like meetings is because they are boring. They lack conflict. While it doesn’t have to be a dramatic brawl, as a team, we desire to build a muscle around “mining for conflict” – drawing out differences of opinions and ideas in a way that is relevant, respectful and constructive.
  • We have a responsibility to hold each other accountable. For the collective good of the business, we need to be willing to push in and challenge each other, to call each other out and support each other as we learn and grow, both as individuals and as a team. While it can definitely stretch us past our comfort zone, accountability does not have to be a bad thing.
  • There are different types of meetings for different purposes. As we learned in the book, an important part of having productive meetings is to define the format and structure for the meeting so that everyone knows how to engage in a meaningful way. In our upcoming Springboard “Meeting about Meetings,” we will be discussing the four basic types of meetings- the Daily Check-In, the Weekly Tactical, the Monthly Strategic and the Quarterly Off-site Review. The goal is to revisit the different types of meetings we have here and start redefining structure, cadence, attendees, etc.

While I certainly don’t think meetings are a major source of stress at Springboard, I think that there are definitely opportunities for improvement. We’ve had some really great conversations as we’ve read through the book about what is and isn’t working about the meetings we currently have. Our discussions have opened the door to talk about communication in general, as well as accountability and ownership of roles. I’m excited to see our progress in the coming weeks and months as we set out to make meetings a more positive and productive part of our work week.

Does your team have any tips and tricks for making the most of meetings? What have you had success with?