Pictured below is the boardroom in my office. 

My colleague Jim and I put this sign in here for one reason.

So many meetings are a complete waste of time. This is true in the real world, this is true of a pre-pandemic world, the virtual world, and a post-pandemic world.

Most meetings are poorly run, lack an agenda and often end with no meaningful decisions being made. 

We use the boardroom to meet prospects and clients, have lunches, and hold special events, but most of our meetings are short & sweet.

It also serves as a daily reminder to Jim and I that we can help drive better meetings.

Here’s an example…

A couple of months ago, I was with a client for a full-day event. I was invited to sit in on the meetings to help them with facilitation and add my value when and where I saw fit.

While most of the work I do is much more in-depth, I love the facilitation role, mainly because it allows me to intervene much earlier in the planning stages than I usually can, which helps me save my client’s tremendous amounts of time and energy.

I was gratified with this specific client when the CEO confided in me that he felt both he and his President would have been “dead in the water” without my involvement after the event. 

Without this coming across as an overly self-aggrandizing Tidbit, this really had little to do with me except that I could get them focused on what truly mattered during their discussions and break through some of their stumbling blocks. 

That success was due almost solely to the practical application of the Tidbit philosophies that I share every week. 

It comes from asking impactful questions before committing to resource-intensive courses of action – the same kinds of questions that I leave you with every week.

Here’s how I could add such value to them (and how you can do the same thing in your meetings).

In the room were the CEO, the President, an outside vendor who’d been developing sales tools for them, a guest speaker on the topic, and the internal champions who worked closely with the vendor.

Almost immediately, the meeting started getting dragged into the weeds with discussions of technical minutiae.  

I stopped everybody repeatedly and refocused them on one question:

How will the organization be better off once these decisions are made?

I’ll be frank – I could see that I was annoying many of the people in the room with my questions. 

People don’t like being stopped and told to refocus, or to reframe their questions, or to stop telling a long and arduous story.

Some don’t like being told they’ve had a lot of airtime and it’s time to hear from others.

Regardless, time and again, there was no good answer to my question… 

They were getting derailed by issues with no regard for how those issues would make an actual difference. 

And annoyingly, I kept shutting it down and attempting to refocus them. But then, things started to happen.

When they realized I wasn’t going to stop, they started changing their approach.

 Minimally at first, the lightbulbs started triggering and we quickly made progress.

It reminds me of a comment I’ve made in the Tuesday tidbits before:

“Often I talk to senior executives who tell me: “I don’t want to hear any of that back to basics stuff, I’m paying a lot of money, give me something advanced.” 

The irony is that their companies aren’t doing the basics. They want to skip ahead without doing the simple, high-value work. Much of the work I do is around ensuring businesses that are already doing well, have the basics in place to do even better.”

The point here isn’t that this is a magic question (although it’s close!)

The point is that companies are often led astray by neglecting to focus on the simple but high-value questions.

Let me give another practical example of something that most companies face at least once per year, and that I see with at least 80% of the clients I work with.

Companies often think that they can improve their sales by getting more talented salespeople, or more talented sales managers in place. 

They spend a lot of time searching, vetting, interviewing, and training people in their sales roles. 

But what they don’t do is develop a fundamental understanding of what those people should be doing (formalized sales process), who will hold them accountable (proper senior leadership involvement in sales function), or ensuring they have the right infrastructure in place to be successful.

Indeed – they’re focusing on the wrong things! 

If you’re trying to find mythical “A-player unicorns”, but you haven’t invested in developing a sound sales process, coaching culture, and data-driven sales management approach to ensure that your team is working as you expect, then all of your hiring efforts are going to be wasted.

We all want more advanced stuff. 

We all want the glitzy marketing promotions, and the viral ad campaigns, and the stuff that makes our competitors ooooh and ahhh. 

But we often want that at the expense of the things that would generate far greater success.

Your Challenge For This Week: 

Before your next meeting, challenge everybody to think about what they’re presenting through the lens of:

‘How will the organization be better off once these decisions are made?’ 

If it’s unclear what the answer to that question is during the meeting, ask the person speaking to answer it. 

You’ll find that the improved focus provided by that simple question will help keep you from getting diverted. 

And more importantly, it will highlight the most important opportunities and threats that you face.

If you can’t do this, then my suggestion is no more meetings.