To Meet or Not To Meet: That Is The Question

I like “short cuts”: making things easy but still useful. The best shortcuts get us to the destination without creating more chaos along the way, right?

I was recently involved in a project with unclear goals and multiple people involved from both inside and outside the organization with differing perspectives. I was trying to take a short cut with a few simple emails to solicit feedback. However, because of the lack of clarity and differing perspectives, my shortcut hit a very quick “dead end”. I quickly switched paths to a series of short meetings with segmented groups involved in the project to bring clarity and then wrapped it up with a large group meeting to get us all moving forward together. 

Even though my email shortcut hit a “dead end” and I had to turn back and go the meeting route, the “dead end” helped all of us see firsthand the lack of clarity. When I held the meetings, I had an energetic crew ready to engage because they saw the need more deeply after hitting the “dead end” with me. 

The whole experience raises a very important set of questions. When do we need a meeting? When do we need another means to bring people together and get things done?

The line between to meet and not to meet is really a dotted one. Not every situation is clearly one or the other. For example, if there is an organization-wide fundraiser that impacts everyone on the team, then making the decision together on date, time, location (scheduling details) may best be accomplished in a meeting because you need the input and it rallies the team. Or, another example, the team achieved a major success that normally is sent out in the weekly email >> but it is worth taking time as a team to celebrate because it casts vision and builds momentum. Or, you may email all the updates in a weekly email, and take 3 minutes in a meeting to recap them because not everyone reads their emails. Just avoid the tendency to repeat everything in the email. Because the power of meetings is in the discussion.

The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions.

~Peter Lencioni

Discussion and engagement makes it worth a team member’s time and effort to engage in a meeting. There must be content they need to engage with — ask questions, share feedback, brainstorm ideas, offer expertise, convey insights, etc. The best meetings are focused on an outcome — a decision to be made; a document to be approved, a worksession that contributes to a final product of some kind. These kinds of meetings require facilitation, not simply setting an agenda and sharing information. It can prove to be helpful to have a team decision-making framework to guide your group toward the decision that is needed.

“To make our meetings more effective, we need to have multiple types of meetings, and clearly distinguish between the various purposes, formats, and timing of those meetings.”

~Peter Lencioni

Too many meetings? Try these ideas to replace a meeting!

  1. Regular all-team emails: Share one-way information in an internal newsletter or emails. I know, people start tuning them out over time. So, try a few of these ideas to help:
    1. Keep them short. Use bullets, images, links to more detail
    2. Change them up. Change format, header, time of day, etc. 
    3. Make it interactive. Ask a question they can hit reply and respond to (i.e. a fun poll, a yes/no or a/b option.)
  2. Pre-record videos: Share vision, values, testimonials, key updates in a pre-recorded video format. These can become artifacts the organization can use in other areas as well, such as onboarding new staff, fundraising, etc. 
  3. Make it personal: Send an individual email whenever the information you need is from one person (avoid using cc: too much). Bring it up in a 1:1 meeting to make it even more personal. Grab your phone and give them a call or use your internal messaging system. 

What else? What have you tried that works for you? Comment below. Help us build up a library of great “shortcuts” to a meeting that have worked for you. On the fence about whether to make it a meeting or not? Want to make it practical and tactical? Grab a free 30-minute strategy session with me and we will talk it through together to find your best path!

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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