Asking the Right Questions
After thirty years of meetings, my first question is always "Why?" Why does this topic require a meeting? Now that I'm a CEO, I have learned to ask a second question: "Why me?" Why does this meeting require the CEO? And not from some inflated sense of importance.
For me, the deeper issue is time, and how we value it, both as an organization and as individuals. Even in our virtual age, meetings are of deep human importance--in fact, perhaps more important than ever when people spend so much time peering at pixels.
Done right, meetings bring people together, achieve clarity and agreement, and they get big things done. But still, for leaders at any level, the first question should be why? How will this meeting respect and reward people's time? Could it be done virtually? Or could the organizers simply send a presentation and ask for input? And why the CEO? Might another leader be more appropriate?
In answering this question, I suggest two critical filters: Is the meeting of strategic importance? And--equally important--is it of human importance, say, in strengthening a relationship or clarifying an understanding?
If a meeting is scheduled, and I agree to attend then, bottom line, my advice to the meeting creators and all participants is arrive prepared. Set the agenda and objectives. Give me and other participants pre-read materials. Come meeting time, assume that we all will have read it. Please, let's not get lost in the slides. Instead, let's all engage in real peer-to-peer dialogue. And when we finish, let's come away with clear follow-up actions, each with an owner.
We've all been there, staring into space, waiting for the slide-show extravaganza to end. Enough. Let's be mindful of how we spend our time. And respectful of how we spend the time of others. As Peter Drucker once put it, "Effective executives... start by finding where their time actually goes."
Posted by: Bmatha | October 7, 2009 9:56 AM
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