That’s mainly because I have always believed that endless corporate-style meetings are not productive for a small business.
Bad meetings are horrible.
They end up with too many people talking about nothing and problems never get resolved. However every company does need regular communication of some sort to clarify more important issues.
Generate actual value in a meeting:
Five years ago, I realized that we had to improve our methods of communication. I recognized that some meetings are indeed necessary, and when they are well-planned and well-run they can actually generate value.
I realized also that when people communicate only by email, conversation quickly degrades.
Email only allows access to part of the story. Probing back-and-forth is time-consuming, and worse when messages are not communicated at all, problems build up.
Communicating, not messaging:
The key difference here is between communicating and messaging.
Email, memos and poorly-run meetings are examples of messaging, in which an idea or request is sent from one person to another (or to a team), but without much opportunity for context, clarification or engagement. Without these things, true connection is lost, and with that goes enthusiasm, commitment and quality.
So I decided to implement a more proactive approach to communication.
Face to Face:
The premier method of communicating is face-to-face. This is the best way to not only get your words across, but at the same time convey tone, while reading the reactions or the other person.
There is far more to effective communication than just words, but because live conversations incorrectly appear to take longer, more people shy away from them.
I have tried to encourage my staff to get up from their desk and talk whenever it is possible. And if it is not possible in person, then I ask them to do it by phone, or Skype. A phonecall, even though it lacks the visuals, still conveys emotion and context through the dynamic of a live conversation.
Do not Procrastinate:
In addition to this “live method,” I also encourage people to communicate as soon as possible. It is better, I believe, to communicate one-on-one right away when a problem or a questions arises. This allows the opportunity to solve problems and explore solutions in the moment.
To pull this argument full-circle, this is now how I run meetings. Right away, on-the-spot. This, I feel, makes them more productive because they happen when they need to happen, and they do not become a forum to explore unresolved issues.
Continuous improvement, by its very name, has to be continuous. This means once in a while you have to stop, look at how things are being done, and identify ways to do them better. This is what I am encouraging with this live-meeting, live-chat approach.
“I believe ability can get you to the top,” says coach John Wooden, “but it takes character to keep you there.… It’s so easy to … begin thinking you can just ‘turn it on’ automatically, without proper preparation. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there. When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, ‘More than ability, they have character.’”
― Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
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