Meetings – The Linchpin of Organizational Health

Recently, someone asked me how I know whether a client is really going to be successful in achieving organizational health.

Read what organizational health really is

It is a great question.

While there are several factors involved in making such a prediction, I’m convinced that one single indicator demonstrates that a client really “gets it,” that they are likely to experience the kind of transformation that only organizational health can bring about. Though that indicator isn’t directly related to teamwork, clarity, communication or systems, it connects all of these disciplines in a way that nothing else can.

What I’m talking about are meetings.

Yes, meetings.

Not the kind of meetings that non-healthy organizations have, the ones where every issue under the sun gets thrown onto an agenda, nothing seems to get decided, unimportant topics and PowerPoint presentations take up valuable time. Executives check their watches, waiting for the painful ritual to end.

I’m talking about meetings with clarity, focus and intense interaction.

Most of our clients immediately understand the importance of the meetings model I propose to them, and they excitedly adopt it. Adoption is rarely the challenge, as my approach is simple and practical. The bigger obstacle they face – and this is a litmus test of sorts – is whether they will have the discipline and courage to stay with those meetings over the long haul and keep passionately focused on the most critical issues.

Solving a problem is one thing; continuing to exploit that solution after its novelty has worn off is another. Too many leaders struggle with discipline, getting bored with consistency and continuity and searching for something new and exciting. And many of them, even if they do stick to the structure of their meetings, lack courage when entering the danger around difficult topics, choosing a more harmonious path instead.

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The myth that meetings are inherently bad.

 For some reason, we have accepted that meetings are a necessary evil of organizational life. Worse, we think all meetings are painful and unproductive time wasters.

But the fact is, bad meetings are a reflection of bad leaders. Worse yet, they take a more devastating toll on a company’s success than we realize.

Fortunately, for those who are willing to challenge the notion that meetings are unfixable, it is possible to transform what is now tedious and debilitating into something productive, focused, even energizing.

However, the key to improving meetings has nothing to do with better preparation, agendas or minutes. To address the problem, leaders need to understand why they are so bad, take a contrarian view of meetings and apply a few basic guidelines.

Meetings are bad due to two basic problems.

  • First, meetings are boring.
  • Second, most meetings lack context and purpose. They are a confusing mix of administrivia, tactics, strategy and review, all of which create unfocused, meandering and seemingly endless conferences with little resolution or clarity.


The Meeting Agenda That Creates Drama and Clarity

            Lightning Round (Report) – (What and where does each individual need help on work that is deemed the “Most Important Right Now”)

            Organizational Clarity  – (Confirm Clarity – every time to ensure the meeting is focused on the right work)

      1. Why Do We Exist?
      2. How Do We Behave
      3. What Do We Do?
      4. How Will We Succeed?

What Is Most Important Right Now? (Thematic Goal)

How to decide what is the most important thing to be working on

Today’s Topics (should be directly connected with achieving the Thematic Goal)

      1. Topics for discussion
      2. Topics for strategic meetings – are there subject so strategic and important that they require their own meeting
      3. Decisions
      4. Cascading Communications Messages

How to be the Chief Reminder Officer

Closing Thoughts

The fact is, running a healthy organization is neither sexy nor comfortable.

Leaders who want to be stimulated and entertained more than they want their companies to succeed will often find it too taxing.

They’ll be easily tempted by the latest fad or flavour of the month, which almost always means their meetings will become scattered, unfocused and inconsistent.

What is particularly ironic about all of this is that eventually and inevitably, those meetings become boring.

And so, here is my advice to any leader considering the journey toward making his or her organization healthy: know that one of your primary responsibilities, perhaps the most important one, is ensuring that your meetings are outstanding.

Make them a constant, living example of teamwork, clarity and communication.

As unsexy as that may seem, there is no greater predictor of organizational health.