Last week we launched Barbara MacKay's new Meeting School course on How to Lead Engaging Meetings. It's sweet. I took it and learned a bunch of handy new tips, and I had fun too. Barbara's a dynamic, warm presenter and a joy to watch.
Many teams lack a clear process for making decisions. Others create decision-making processes that are plenty clear, but take forever. Most employ a confused mix, running some decisions through an agonizing gauntlet of analysis but leaving others up to the leader-of-the-day's whims.
These teams waste money and time. They also undermine the group's confidence and trust.
Who wants to work on a team where nothing gets done, because no one ever makes a decision without first checking and re-analyzing 97,000 times? Not me. Not you, I'm guessing.
None of us wants to work with a leader who makes arbitrary decisions based on secret criteria, either. While executive mandate sounds powerful, in reality it means that the leader couldn't get anyone else to back that decision with them, so they chose to bully it into being instead.
What works? And if your team doesn't have great decision making habits, how do you get started?
Do you feel nervous before meeting with your consulting clients? If so, chances are you aren’t well-prepared.
With proper preparation and a specific agenda, your meetings will be productive and stress-free. Not only will this make your life easier, but your clients will appreciate it as well.
In this article, I’ll explain a simple 3-part framework you can use for your client meetings. This framework works especially well if you’re working with clients on an ongoing basis.
After reading, you’ll know how to run the perfect consulting meeting — and how to leverage meetings into more consulting work.
Before & After Using The Meeting Agenda: Jane’s Story
Jane never felt quite comfortable during meetings with her client.
Sure, she was delivering on the project just fine — but these meetings with the client were a sticking point. She wasn’t sure what the purpose of the meeting was. She went into them hoping for the best.
Without a clear structure to the meeting, it was hard for her client to see progress. They even started to doubt her value.
She could feel the business slipping away.
I have worked in technology for 10+ years, and have experienced meetings of all shapes and sizes. Interestingly, the types of meetings and ways of conducting meetings have not evolved as quickly as the technology behind meetings.
Generally speaking, the meeting starts with the meeting facilitator announcing the agenda. Everyone introduces themselves. Someone is writing meeting notes and minutes as the meeting progresses. As the meeting winds to a close, the meeting facilitator surveys the room for questions and comments.
“We are the only mammals that can cooperate with numerous strangers because only we can invent fictional stories, spread them around, and convince millions of others to believe in them.”Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens
Topics: meeting technology
We often know what we should do or what we want to do to make our product and services better. But, we don’t. Instead, what we have to do and what’s on fire at-the-moment usually takes precedence. So, when we want to make big shifts, it’s all about carving out time and focus. Design Sprints give you both.
Let me give you an example from one of my favorite Design Sprints: on-demand meal delivery company Favor asked me to facilitate a Design Sprint last year. They wanted to focus on how to improve the earnings of their “Runners" (the people who deliver the meals) by 10% while also cutting the number of Runners who found the job frustrating by half.
Tackling this problem with design had been on their mind, but they just hadn’t gotten to it. By dedicating time for a Design Sprint, they were able to kickstart important improvements.
"We started with all these ideas about what our users wanted and needed in the next version of our app. The design sprint made us rapidly validate these assumptions instead of getting months down the road and realizing we were designing things our users didn’t want or need. In one week, we were able to build a solid foundation for our redesign from real user feedback."-Meg Nidever, UX Designer, Favor Delivery
Even better, the Sprint experience led to a renewed dedication to prototyping and user testing for the Favor team.
What is a Design Sprint?
A Design Sprint is like an all-inclusive retreat for your next great business idea. This timeboxed, self-contained process allows teams the opportunity to consider an existing problem or a new idea, gather insights on potential or current users, prototype ideas, and validate them all within about five days.
Topics: meeting design
I often find inspiration for better meetings from gatherings outside the business world. I'm curious: what is it that makes someone who grimaces through every meeting pony up good money to gather with other people after work? Why do so many people raise their hands claiming to hate meetings when I speak at meetings they had to pay to attend?
People don't hate meetings. They hate pointless wastes of their time. So what does success look like?
Successful gatherings of all types share several common characteristics. The JoCo cruise is one such successful gathering.
Billed as a "nerdy summer camp at sea," the JoCo cruise is an affinity cruise for lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, board games, and all things deliciously nerdy. More importantly, as John Schwartz writes in the New York Times, the JoCo cruise regularly creates a "floating community of friends."
Topics: meeting design
“The more, the merrier in meetings. You can now have up to 250 participants! … Just right for that quarterly all-hands get-together.”
The announcement from a leading video conference system supplier made my heart sink.
NO! That's NOT just right.
Thanks to the magic of videoconferencing, you can instantly talk at all your people, all over the world - and of course that's useful in some circumstances.
But it’s not a get-together. It's not bringing anyone together.
Topics: remote work
November 1991. Northern Michigan, almost at the Canadian border. Ten people gathered in a rustic inn for a weeklong training in group facilitation and consensus decision-making.
I had recently joined a grass roots, ecological network in which meetings were facilitated and decisions were made by consensus. Until then, my meeting-going experience had been limited to parent-teacher events at my children's school. I had never heard of facilitation, much less seen it in action.
A colleague and I realized that we had a dearth of trained facilitators in our area, so we recruited the most respected facilitator in the movement (Caroline Estes from Oregon) and committed to organizing and attending the training.
Even though I helped organize the training, I was skeptical. I thought, “A whole week? What could be so complicated about this that we need so much time to learn it?”
Short answer: It was an initiation, thinly disguised as training. A life-changing introduction to work that would eventually cause me to move to Mexico, learn Spanish and work in over 30 countries around the world.
Earlier this week we announced the opening of Meeting School, the world's only online educational marketplace dedicated to meeting skills education. Meeting School offers courses taught by the team at Lucid and by meeting specialists, scientists, and experts from around the globe.
At Lucid Meetings, our mission is to make it easy for teams to run successful meetings every day. Teaching teams the skills they need to run successful meetings seems like an obvious way for us to fulfill this mission, and yet we're just now opening our first courses to students.
For years, when I shared the Lucid mission with new people they would say "Oh, so you do training? Workshops and things?" They assumed that a group looking to run better meetings would need workshops.
But we'd seen too many organizations invest in failed quick-fix meeting improvement programs, and we weren't interested in creating yet another well-meaning but doomed-to-fail batch of meeting training.
One of the most important reasons for holding a meeting is to make decisions.
Yet too often, the decision-making process degenerates into a battle between competing points of view. Participants become polarized, entrenched in their positions and paralyzed by their disagreements. Unable to resolve the conflict, the group often makes a decision that everyone says they can live with, but that no one really supports. Or worse, no decision gets made at all, and the group misses the opportunity to take positive collective action.
Topics: meeting design