In the 15 years I’ve spent working in or with growing companies, the companies who are consistently growing and achieving their goals are those that have established a routine and rhythm of having meetings. The faster they are growing, the more meetings they have. Now while this may sound counterintuitive and even crazy to you, I need to clarify that I’m not talking about having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. I’m talking about having short meetings that are run to time, with a specific structure and agenda.
Most meetings are poorly run, demotivating and, to be frank, a waste of everyone’s time. If run properly, your meetings will be inspiring and positive and enable the business to grow at a faster rate.
A big key to running successful meetings is to prepare for them properly. This is why the daily, weekly and monthly reports are so important. The reports are designed to give you the information required to run a short and productive meeting. This way the meeting can cut through the information-gathering stage that often takes up the majority of most meetings and get straight into constructive discussions and/or sharing.
A great meeting rhythm that I have implemented with many companies is:
Daily meeting (huddle) – a must in growing companies
- daily meeting (or sometimes referred to as a daily huddle)
- weekly meeting
- monthly meeting
A daily meeting or huddle is a short meeting (five to 15 minutes) designed to support discussions around tactical issues and provide short updates. This is a great way to bring everyone together, keep everyone focused and build a culture of camaraderie and teamwork.
While this may seem like overkill and not necessary, this is a practice that many fast-growing companies around the world have implemented and are practising on a daily basis. You may feel like you don’t have the time to conduct such a meeting, or feel you are having enough interactions already so you don’t need another meeting. In my experience, when implemented well, the daily huddle will save you time, reduce impromptu conversations and increase the efficiency of information sharing.
I have worked with many organisations that have implemented this well and the results are immediate. Your team will be more aligned, and you will be able to control the internal energy together with accelerating the growth of your company. Let me delve a little deeper on the structure and limits that lead to a successful daily huddle.
It is recommended that you set the start of the daily huddle at an odd time, such as 10.10 am or 12.12 pm, to make it memorable. Starting at an odd time often leads to people being on time, believe it or not. As this is quite a short meeting you don’t really have very much time to waste. So it is important to the success of the huddle that you start and finish on time (ideally the meeting shouldn’t go for longer than 15 minutes). In the beginning I recommend getting someone to time the meeting and to end the meeting regardless of whether the agenda is finished or not.
In order to the keep the meeting short it is best to conduct the daily huddle standing up. This keeps the energy high and will help you to avoid extending the conversation — people don’t want to have to stand for too long.
Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up and one of the leading pioneers of the daily huddle concept, says, ‘In general, the goal is to have more people in less meetings, not more meetings with less people.’ It is for that reason that I recommend you involve the maximum number of staff members. The ideal number to keep the meeting short and allow a good exchange of information is 10 to 20 people. In larger companies I would recommend you create a daily huddle in each department, and another daily huddle with the heads of the departments.
The last point to consider is the heart of the daily huddle; the questions. The agenda should be the same every day, and is only three items long (allowing up to five minutes per item). An agenda that has worked with many of my clients revolves around the following three questions:
- Did you achieve your primary focus yesterday?
- What is your primary focus today?
- What obstacles will keep you from completing it/ Where are you stuck?
The meeting rhythm will depend on the role and on the organisational culture. Depending on what other meetings are scheduled, I usually have a daily meeting with my personal assistant. That daily meeting is critical to her role and her ability to support me in what I’m doing. Those meetings are pre-booked in my diary, one month in advance.
It’s a 15-minute meeting, and the conversation starts with ‘How can I help?’, and my assistant will give all the updates for the day. The meeting shifts when she says ‘Matt, how can I help you?’ and then I update her on what I need done. While hosting this meeting, we use Asana (our project management tool). We both have it open and make changes in real time, so we can both see the capture of those tasks and make sure they get managed properly.
Weekly and monthly meetings
The second meeting type is the weekly meeting, which is a 50-minute meeting with a clear agenda that talks about the critical progress updates within a business. It engages conversation to help people understand, and gathers feedback from the team on what the business should keep doing, stop doing and start doing.
When it comes to one-on-one, team, weekly or any other meetings that follow an agenda, culturally it’s good to start with:
- What are your wins for the week and why do they matter?
- What has been your biggest challenge and why does it matter?
- What have you learnt in the past week and how can you apply it?
This helps set a positive mood and tone for the meeting, providing a chance to celebrate individual victories as a team and praise individuals in front of the team. ‘Wins and positives’ for the week could be the first item on your meeting agenda. From there, move on to the remaining items.
I always end my weekly meetings with these two questions:
- As an organisation, based on the past seven days, what should we STOP doing?
- As an organisation, based on the past seven days, what should we START doing?
These two questions allow people to voice their concerns or frustrations as well as provide ideas or solutions that can enhance the business.
Monthly meetings follow a similar agenda to the weekly meetings, except you need to add a strategic layer to it. By this I mean you should check in with the company’s goals and solve any major challenges to enable you to continue moving forward.
Edited extract from The Stop Doing List (Wiley $27.95) by business strategist Matt Malouf, now available where all good books are sold. For more information on Matt Malouf visit www.mattmalouf.com.au
The key to great management, whether your staff are local or overseas, virtual or in your workplace, is regular communication and a good meeting rhythm. You need to think of these meetings like the pulse of your business. If it’s not beating regularly and rhythmically, then inevitably you’ll get an unhealthy system.