How do you define a great meeting?

Andy Stanley said, “The best thing a leader can bring to his team is his energy.” (quoting Bill Hybels)… another reason that I’d encouraged you to Ho‘ohui: Huddle up, and Bring back the staff meeting:

Having regularly scheduled staff meetings has become a no-no, something we avoid like the plague in workplaces. Why?

Boycotting staff meetings is absurd. Meetings are not a problem dear manager; bad meetings are. And make no mistake; you need them.

The solution is simple: Have good meetings!

I left that last statement as is, so how so? How do you have a good meeting?

Photo credit: “God, I hope we get to perform this sometime” by Nosha on Flickr

To have the noun, define the verb

I think you have to very simply define that word ‘meeting’ by thinking about why you have them at all. Fact of the matter is that meetings exist in organizational structures like some brick or pillar which has been in the building forever, but is no longer foundational or even functional. It’s just there as part of the cultural auto-pilot.

I talked about this a little bit with David Zinger, the employee engagement guru, and he said that if he was chairing a meeting, he’d be sure to “Sit at the same level, be part of the circle, listen to all voices, care about relationships and results.”

That tells me David wants to really hear from the people there with him: He is starting with his why. Starting that way takes him directly to his action verbs as a leader.

From a contextual standpoint, a good meeting is a great conversation involving more people. I like to keep it simple, and define meetings that way because it reminds me to honor the conversation part and make sure it is ever-present in my meeting agendas. It helps me treat each meeting as a brand new event — who is coming? i.e. Who are my guests? — so that I focus on individuals versus audience.

But those are my whys, and it’s okay if your energy-creating (leading) or energy-channeling (managing) why is different: Just be sure it is intentional.

So this posting is not going to offer you a listing of all the elements that go into constructing a great meeting agenda: that would be condescending I think. As an Alaka‘i Manager you can take care of content. My advice is to define your why.

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sayalakai_rosasayMy mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Each Thursday I write a management posting for Say “Alaka‘i” at Hawai‘i’s newspaper The Honolulu Advertiser. If this is the first you have caught sight of my Say “Alaka‘i” tagline, you can learn more on this Talking Story page: About Say “Alaka‘i”. There are some differences in this Talking Story version, most notably that all links will keep you here on this blog.


  1. says

    Here’s a suggested companion maxim to “The best thing a leader can bring to his team is his energy.”

    The best thing a leader can bring to his team and/or a meeting is a vision and a plan for bringing out the best in each other (talents & temperament) in situations where they can get closer, learn together, teach each other and co-create greater things than they could on their own.
    .-= Kare ´s last blog ..“Final Four” a Team Trend? =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you Kare, good thoughts. Your maxim certainly would give that leader a very defined disposition he brings to his meetings, and therefore, an expectation everyone there would know they can tap into!

  2. says

    Your advise is exactly right: “define your why”.

    The difficult thing to do is to remember to do it every time. Meetings are a VERY regular part of many people’s day to day, so much so that they become routine. Theory is great but doing it constantly is what makes all the difference. Your team has to come to expect and be comfortable with great meetings before you will really see the payoff.

    PS. Love the Hybels/Stanely quote.

    • Rosa Say says

      Hi Steven, you make a good point and great case for defining your why meeting by meeting, and not just as an over-arching expectation. In essence, the “routine” must be anything but! And I think you’re right about how increased comfort over time will help the level of engagement rise.

  3. says

    Oy! Meetings.

    I coached a manager through using the 4MAT method of instructional design for ‘designing’ his meetings. Instant turnaround. (This is to identify 4MAT as a positive tool, rather than me as an amazing coach@ :))…

    He also delegated parts of the meetings to two other stakeholders. The result was that he now had both a process that engaged all of the learning styles in the room, and three voices in the room leading the process rather than just his (a fresh voice is like fresh air sometimes).

    Excellent topic, given that we’re all subjected to meetings constantly, and they CAN be a positive hub of community and mission…

    • Rosa Say says

      I had to look up 4MAT Pete – had not heard of it before! You never fail to teach me something — you are an amazing coach :))

      Found this link, Why 4MAT Works (for any other readers also learning of it now, with me) and from what I gather, it would be a method that is responsive to learning styles – so it would consider meetings teaching opportunities more than operational communications forums: Is that right?

      Which brings up another good point — there are a wealth of different kinds of meetings; this is a huge subject, and sometimes that IS the problem with staff meetings in particular – they are a catch-all of different purposes, rather than specific enough with intent, or laser-sharp focus.

  4. says

    Good question about operational communications forums and 4MAT. I’m no expert; I THINK it would treat meetings as collaborative process around business issues. (e.g. “here’s a reason or two to engage with the topics of today’s meeting; here’s the content of today’s meeting – these 6 pressing issues we have; here’s 15 minutes to break into 6 groups and brainstorm solutions and refinements we can make, one to a group; groups report back – okay let’s choose some actions to take and work out who’ll do them.” That kinda thing…)
    .-= Pete Aldin ´s last blog ..The Future of FoF =-.