Some parts of life are easy to dislike. World hunger and terrorism come to mind.
For many people, so do workplace meetings.
But the startup Gild Collective—comprised of three cofounders, Jessie Deye, Kelsey Pytlik, and Rachel Bauer McCreary—has realized that meetings can not only be helpful, but they can be essential for driving alignment and productivity.
For the past five months, I’ve been following the Gild Collective team by asking them to complete a survey every single week. That survey has included ratings by the team across the 15 capabilities within The AGILE Model®, a recognized best-practice framework for nimble leaders, teams and organizations. It has also included a series of open-ended questions designed to help the three cofounders align their goals and activities, as well as ratings of their perceived levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
My thought upon starting these surveys was to provide the team with a weekly snapshot that they could use to guide their discussions and help them get on the proverbial same page.
Sometimes they did that, sometimes they didn’t.
But a few weeks ago, the team asked me to meet with them in person to discuss how they could better use their weekly snapshot to revolutionize their weekly meetings. I gladly obliged.
Our conversation seemed to me to last about 15 minutes, but when I looked at my watch, I noticed we’d been talking for almost two hours. During that time, we discussed:
- Why even have meetings, what problem should they solve?
- Prior experiences and lessons learned from attempting to have meetings
- How to use weekly survey feedback to improve as a team
- A template for their weekly meetings that would keep them on track and allow them to discuss items efficiently and effectively
The team has now had the chance to use this new approach a few times, and the results are highly positive. Their meetings have energy and purpose, creating alignment of priorities and goals along with necessary collaboration. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the Gild Collective team as they hone their teamwork and communication through these meetings.
What might this mean for the rest of us? How can you revolutionize your weekly meetings? A few tips come to mind based upon my work with Gild Collective:
- Obtain a shared understanding of WHY you are meeting. What problem are you trying to solve and what do people need to get out of the meeting?
- Have a mechanism in place for making sure everyone prepares. This could be some sort of shared agenda creation, but with the Gild Collective team, this is the weekly survey I have them complete. I send it to them on Friday mornings, they complete it on Friday or Saturday and I send them their team report on Sunday or Monday. Then, they have time to read through it prior to meeting on Tuesday afternoons.
- Create a template for your meeting structure. This will help you avoid getting in conversations that go nowhere—like going down a cul-de-sac.
- Agree to hold each other accountable and keep a regular schedule. It’s important to note that I’m NOT advocating meeting just for meeting's sake. But when you have a senior-level team in a high-VUCA environment, weekly meetings are probably the bare minimum.
- Periodically check in with each other about your meeting structure and process. Ensure that the meeting is still working well and solicit improvement suggestions.
For startups, this kind of meeting is particularly important for a few reasons.
First, the team is moving at high speed. Startup time is not the same as big-corporation time. What Gild Collective has done in five months is probably equivalent to about five years in many companies.
Second, teams of cofounders—whether they know it or not—are setting in place norms and routines that will ripple throughout their organizations when growth occurs. It’s best to be intentional about those norms and routines so that the culture you get is the one you want.
For any team wanting to get things done, having effective meetings is critical.
I don’t think it’s that everyone actually hates meetings. I think it’s that we hate bad meetings—those ones that waste time and generate more confusion than alignment.
What do you love or hate about meetings? Leave a comment below!
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Also: The Gild Collective team is really excited about its special holiday promotions. For those of you who are crafty or know someone crafty, check out www.gildcollective.com. They’re running a Black Friday through Cyber Monday promotion, so don’t delay!
About Ben Baran
Ben Baran, Ph.D., is probably one of the few people in the world who is equally comfortable in a university classroom, a corporate boardroom and in full body armor carrying a U.S. government-issued M4 assault rifle. Visit: www.benbaran.com.