Stop Running Spaghetti Meetings

Have you ever been to a meeting where there doesn’t appear to be a purpose?  People just talk about a bunch of stuff.  There is no specific actions or to-dos.   Of course you have.  I think everybody has.  We call those spaghetti meetings.  They usually start late, somebody dials-in after the meeting has started, topics run all over the place, someone has a topic that derails the agenda, people have side conversations, and the meeting runs late.  Sound familiar?   It’s just like a plate of spaghetti.  Noodles just kind of flow all over the place with no rhyme or reason with really no start, no middle and no end.  Just a tangled set of discussions. If your meetings are like that or you feel your meetings are getting stale, then I suggest one of two options – 1) stop having the meeting altogether or 2) bring some structure to those meetings.  If you feel the meeting could have value, then keep reading to learn an easy fix to make them more effective.

Meetings set the tone for how you manage your team.  If you run your meetings sloppily and are unorganized, how can you expect your team to manage their business any differently.  Here are some simple rules to make your meetings effective:

  • Start them on time – shut the door when the meeting is supposed to start and begin.  If people come late, address it with them later.  If they are professionals, they should be able to get to meetings on time.
  • Have an agenda – send it out ahead of time so everybody knows what you will be discussing and come prepared.
  • Purpose – define what people are supposed to be getting out of the meeting.  Are they just supposed to be informed of things going on?  Are they there to help resolve an issue?  Are you seeking their input so you can make a decision on something?  Are they there to get trained on something?  Make sure they know the purpose and the role they are supposed to play.
  • Process – outline how you will use the time in the meeting.  And, when people bring up issues that are not on the agenda, don’t get sucked in.  Jot down notes on it and address in another meeting or one on one.  Stay true to your process.
  • Have specific action items at the end – this is your time to set clear expectations and what you want them to do when the meeting is over and you all walk out the door.
  • Don’t mix meetings – rather than tackle several items at once in a long meeting, break them into small meetings with just the essential people.
  • Rinse and Repeat – start your next meeting by following up on action items from the last one, then follow your process again.

Now compare your last meeting to these guidelines.  How did you do?  Where do you need to make some adjustments?   This is not an easy process.  It takes work and it is really easy to fall back into old habits.  As a leader, your job is to make these valuable and use these meetings to accomplish something.   If your meetings don’t do that, then why have them?

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