When anticipating pain – frustration, fatigue or conflict – people show up for meetings already “anesthetized”, or checked-out. That’s one of the reasons many meetings produce poor results.
Consider all the meetings you have scheduled this week. Do you groan out loud when you think about how much, or how little, will be accomplished? If so, a key remedy is to invite only the right people.
No more spectators.
How many of your meetings include “spectators” who don’t contribute real value to purposeful conversation? Does their presence generate confusion? Do their remark create drags in the agenda?
Remember this rule: involved in the work shouldn’t necessarily mean invited to the meeting.
Here’s an analogy: only four people shown in this photo are “attending the meeting”. They are the people directly contributing to the procedure and related decisions. While many others are involved in the work to ensure the procedure is a success, if all those involved were invited to attend there would be confusion, chaos, and distraction at the operating table.
Similarly, when you have “spectators” whose direct contribution to the conversation isn’t needed to achieve the meeting purpose, the necessary contribution of others can suffer due to confusion, chaos, and distraction.
One reason is this: spectators often engage in side bar conversations. Those side-bars can easily turn into off-agenda tangential remarks that create confusion about the meeting’s real purpose. When there’s confusion about purpose, your meetings run long, decisions don’t get made or aren’t understood, conflict ensues, and, well… you know the rest. It can be painful.
Invite only those who will directly contribute value to the meeting’s purpose.
It’s easier than you might think, when you rigorously do the following:
- Be specific when you state the meeting purpose. Your meeting purpose should include the desired outcome for the meeting. For example, “Decide Whether to Refurbish Machine E or Replace It”.
- Make a list of criteria specifically tied to your meeting purpose. For example, “Invite to this meeting: 1) those who manage people who will be responsible for refurbishing the machine, or 2) were involved in a successful similar refurbishment in the past, or 3) have direct responsibility for the costs associated with the effort, or 4) have identified potential vendors and specs for replacement.”
- Invite only those who meet the criteria.
- Send a calendar invite to all invitees with the specific meeting purpose in the subject line. State the criteria for being invited, so that all invited understand why everyone else will be there. Doing this helps further cement the meeting purpose in everyone’s mind.