When it comes to business meetings, we’ve heard it all: have an agenda; have no agenda; keep the pre-read to just a few slides; have no slides at all; keep the meetings short and frequent; have longer, less frequent meetings; do them virtually; do them in person; do them standing up; eliminate them altogether. I’m sure you could come up with your own list of dos and don’ts.
My topic today, although adjacent, is not about meetings per se. It’s about conversations. Meaningful workplace and business conversations. Because how you chose to define things really matters, and defining something as “a meeting” often fails to capture something very important. How you chose to frame things can set the stage for success, or take you right where you didn’t want to go in the first place.
In companies large and small, leaders at all levels spend a lot of time presenting things to each other. What they often don’t do, is take the time to think things through together. I get it: people are busy, and it just feels more expedient to power through the laundry list of topics as fast and efficiently as possible. But at what a cost.
Time and time again, I’ve noticed that when people take the time to work through something together – to co-create an outcome with their peers rather than simply ratifying someone else’s work – something important happens: mutual understanding and trust go up; engagement and buy-in go up, and the solution itself is much better than what it would have been without the effort of creating it together.
Yes, it often takes more time. If the place is on fire and you need quick, decisive action to avert disaster, perhaps you can’t afford to spend too much time on deciding on your course of action. On the other hand, perhaps the very urgency of the situation requires your team’s very best thinking. And perhaps, just perhaps, giving yourself the space to step back from the daily grind and kick ideas around with others would have allowed you to get ahead of things in the first place.
In my line of work, one of the most important things I can do for clients is to hold a space in time for them to have meaningful conversations about things that really matter to them and their organizations: What kind of business do we want to be? What kind of team? How do we want to work together? How will we win? What do we want to keep? What do we have to change? It sounds easy but it’s not, and it matters.
Can you and your team afford to not have great conversations?