How to Improve Meetings: Better Cadence & Rhythm
Years ago, I saw the following advertisement headline:
“Meetings, the creative alternative to working!”
The faux ad went on to promote all the benefits of meetings: how they allow you to avoid work, let you reconnect with friends, provide an escape from the day-to-day. Most of us can laugh at this because sadly, there’s a lot of truth in this satirical advertisement. For many of us, just the thought of a meeting means dreading another session of wasted time.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If scheduled and implemented in the right way, meetings can be productive, beneficial, and even fun. Most meetings are scheduled in a reactive fashion and have little or no defined purpose. But what if meetings became an intentional, core structural element of your organization? What if there was a regular meeting cadence for purpose-driven, effective meetings? My guess is that you’d see the benefits that my clients have: improved communication, focus, and efficiency.
Meeting Cadence Definition
So what are we talking about when we use the phrase “meeting cadence”? It’s simply a predictable pattern, a regular occurrence that can be expected and counted on. Many successful companies rely on “the daily stand-up” or the “weekly check-in.” These repeated get-togethers are just a few examples of a meeting cadence for a company.
Importance of Team Meetings
When working with leadership teams who don’t have a meeting cadence, I’ll often ask why and suggest they start meeting regularly.
At first, I’ll get push-back. I’ll hear things like, “We’re small enough, we just pop in each other’s office when there’s a problem.” This is where I go “Dr. Phil” on them with, “How’s that working for you?” Yes, ad hoc conversations need to happen throughout the day. But a regular meeting cadence provides so much more. By having everyone together, multiple perspectives are shared, discussion items are quickly dealt with, priorities are established, and accountability is heightened.
Years ago, I worked with a company that began implementing a weekly management meeting. After a few months, they told me how much more efficient they had become in all facets of the business. Then they hit a busy patch with increased volume, activity, etc. They decided to pause the weekly meeting until things settled down.
A few months went by, and many of the issues from the past had come back to the surface. I asked, “Are you discussing these in the weekly management meeting?” After they told me that hadn’t met in a while because things got busy, I asked, “Do you think there’s a correlation?”
Meeting Structure Matters
When it comes to determining a meeting cadence and structure, there is no one size fits all. The key is finding a cadence that works for your business. What rhythm will work best for your team, for management, for your company?
Determining Your Meeting Cadence
Developing the right meeting cadence, the one that best serves your company, will occur as you ask and discuss the following questions:
- What purpose should our meetings serve?
- How much time and effort are we currently spending on unproductive conversations?
- What do our current meetings look like? Are we even meeting at all?
- When we do meet, do we run out of time at meetings?
- What should be the goals of our meetings?
- How are we meeting to discuss urgent matters vs. everyday issues?
- Who needs to be involved in meetings?
Popular Meeting Cadences
When I work with companies on establishing a productive meeting cadence, I provide the following framework, then encourage them to adapt it to meet their productivity goals.
These are often used at companies that have production or project orientation—manufacturing, software development, etc. These daily “check-ins” can be short and sweet, 15 minutes tops.
The agenda can be as simple as, “How did we finish yesterday? What’s the focus for today?” Keep any deep discussion out of this. If an issue pops up, direct participants to address it right after the meeting. The topics for this meeting are not deep or expansive.
This meeting is usually a tactical type of meeting. I find it best to start this meeting with no agenda. Start by going around the room asking each person what items they want to bring to the group. If a participant doesn’t have an item, so be it.
Keep discussion around tactics and execution on the short term, within the time frame of the next five to seven days. It’s usually best to have this kind of meeting at the beginning of the week.
Monthly or Topical Meetings
These meetings are best used to discuss weightier topics, such as strategic, operational, or financial issues. Another good use of the monthly meeting is to attack the “Issues List”. Limit the agenda to 1 or 2 topics. A great framework for this meeting is to:
- Define the problem to be solved.
- Gather perspective (you can use the 4 Helpful Lists).
- Determine the solution.
Leave this meeting by defining “how much of what by when” in implementing any solutions that have been determined.
These are best used for getting a status on and updating the corporate strategy. Usually, quarterly meetings are one- or two-day, off-site sessions. Here, we get company updates, report on the status of key initiatives, review financial progress, and set the course for the next quarter.
Meeting Cadence for L10 Meetings
One super helpful meeting framework is from EOS®. It’s called the Level 10 Meeting™. This is a tightly scripted meeting time and agenda that keeps teams on task. On the same day and same time each week, the agenda is:
- Meeting opening (For example, everyone share some good news)
- Company metrics
- Initiatives review
- Customer/employee issues
- Problem solving
- Wrap up
- Rate the meeting
If you feel the need for a tighter structure, the L10 meeting framework may be a great place to start.
Conduct More Productive Meetings
I’d be happy to speak with you about what kind of meeting cadence would work best for your organization. If you’d like to set a time to chat (with no strings attached), feel free to contact me.