Think about the worst meetings you can remember attending.
What was it like? How long did it last? What about it made you want to pull your fingernails out?
We want to help you never feel that way again. Ultimately, running your business is about execution, and a big part of execution is having meetings that get things done.
If Simon Sinek is right, we need to start with “why” to accomplish something meaningful.
We think it’s essential for leadership teams to meet weekly, so this ideal has been incorporated into the meeting cadence we teach. We call that meeting the BME, or Best Meeting Ever.
So, why have a team meeting template, and why meet regularly? There are four primary reasons.
- Keep people informed: they need to know the what and why
- Keep people involved: they have a part to play
- Keep people aligned: their work must align with key priorities
- Keep people accountable: their work matters, hold them to it
A good meeting will accomplish those four things and keep people engaged in the process.
Departments can also have BME’s. These types of meetings aren’t limited to leadership teams. These meetings don’t have to be as long, but the agenda can be fairly similar. The framework is easy to teach and execute at any level within your organization.
To make it the Best Meeting Ever, we took a few tips from James Patterson, one of the bestselling authors of all time. He said that if you want to create a great story — which you’ll want to do if you’re going to hold attention in meetings — you need to do three things:
- Condense the plot.
- Keep the stakes high.
- Highlight the conflict.
In a meeting, how do you practically condense the plot, keep the stakes high and highlight the conflict?
To condense the plot , you need to meet at the same time each week, start on time, end on time and follow the same agenda.
Nothing radical here — but it’s hard to do.
Congruence teaches a 90-minute meeting once a week. You can accomplish much in 90 minutes, and it shouldn’t take longer than that if you stick to the plan.
This may sound like a lot of time to dedicate, but ask yourself how many other impromptu meetings or office drop-ins are needed to keep things on track currently?
A planned meeting like this cuts down on the number of ad-hoc meetings because it forces clear communication and brings accountability to the initiatives you want to accomplish.
Here’s the meeting agenda for the Best Meeting Ever:
The first two sections of the meeting allow people to connect and stay “in the know” with the team.
As you can see, you start with a quick five to ten minutes of positive focus time. This is a period for each person to share a one or two-sentence highlight from the week, which can be personal or professional. This interaction sets a great tone from the onset.
The next five minutes are a time to announce any hiring-search news, new hires, quick team highlights or terminations. You want to keep people updated about team happenings.
The next few stages involve accountability. Accountability helps to keep the stakes high each week. That’s Patterson’s second key to writing a good story, and of course, our key to keeping meetings productive.
Here’s the thing — it’s hard to hold people accountable. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things in business. It’s also a critical aspect of execution. People have to know that you’re going to ask them about their work. A failure to do so is ultimately an act of selfishness on the part of the leader.
As individuals, we thrive on a sense of accomplishment, especially when we achieve something difficult. Organizations also move forward when meaningful work is accomplished efficiently, but when we allow hard goals to become amorphous concepts that don’t require follow-through, it’s easy for an entire team and organization to become disorganized and demoralized over time.
If people know accountability is just a normal part of life each week, it makes it much more comfortable and functional. The Best Meeting Ever makes accountability a part of what you do. It’s the norm, not the exception.
After your HR updates, check on your to-do list. The previous week you wrote down a list of things team members committed to doing throughout the week. This is where you go down the list and ask them if it was done.
Then, transition to your Actions In Progress (AIPs). Each quarter you will develop five to ten key AIPs that attempt to solve major problems within your business and assign them to particular people on the team. During this meeting time, your team will simply give you an update of on-track or off-track.
Some people call these “rocks” or “quarterly initiatives” — it really doesn’t matter what you call them. The key is to find out if they are getting done or not.
If your team member’s progress is off-track and he or she can’t tell you why in one sentence, you probably need to drop that into the “problems to solve” list.
Dedicate the next 15 minutes to PulseCard review. Your PulseCard consists of the five to ten metrics that tell you if your business is healthy on a weekly basis. Some people call them scorecards — I like PulseCard because, in my mind, this indicator lets everyone know whether or not the business has a pulse.
Whoever is responsible for a particular metric can give a 60-second commentary on it. If it takes longer than that to explain a result, or if a number is just plain bad, you may need to drop it into the “problems to solve” category.
The next section will likely take most of the remaining meeting time. This is where you highlight the conflict , which is Patterson’s third key to creating a great plot.
In your “problems to solve” time, you’ll write down the critical problems facing your business. This could have come from the meeting itself after you reviewed a PulseCard or received an HR update that needed discussion, or it may come from somewhere else. The key is to think through any hurdles or opportunities the business is facing that need to be discussed.
Take the first five minutes of the section time to write down the problems that need solving and rank them in terms of priority. This may take more than five minutes at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll quickly and intuitively get the hang of it.
After you’ve ranked them, start with the first problem and solve it as a team. Once you do, move to the second problem on the list.
There will be weeks where you get through your entire list, and there will be other weeks when you barely finish the first one. In either case, you can leave the meeting knowing you talked about the most important problems your business is facing.
Having run meetings like this for many years, I can assure you it’s satisfying to know you are tackling your highest priority problems each week. It makes that meeting, not to mention your week, more meaningful.
To conclude the meeting, take the final five minutes to review and assign any to-do’s for the coming week or finalize any communication.
Use this template to crush your next meeting…and then keep doing it. Your Best Meeting Ever is a critical part of your meeting cadence.
When you learn to do this well, your business will accomplish more, your days will be more purposeful and, most importantly, your team will be eternally grateful.