A pioneer in creative problem-solving, collaborative leadership, and group facilitation, CEO of Interaction Associates, Barry Rosen, has dedicated three decades of his career to helping companies find their secret-sauce to make meetings actually matter.
In this conversation, we talked with Barry about the importance of collaboration, the shifting nature of the connection, and how companies can create better outcomes in the year ahead. Specifically – THIS year ahead.
M.R. Rangaswami: What do you see as the biggest problem with today’s standard meeting methodologies?
Barry Rosen: In many cases, the answer is twofold: meetings occur too often, and they accomplish too little. Our 2020 State of Online Meetings Report found that 42% of survey respondents felt their meetings were seldom or never effective. Similarly, when working with clients, we often hear about teams with calendars packed with meetings and too little time to actually do the work discussed during those times.
This is a significant problem. No company can afford to have nearly half of its meeting efforts fall flat. At the same time, organizations must communicate and collaborate.
This is especially true during the pandemic as many teams try to overcome physical separation with increasingly onerous online meetings. Zoom fatigue is real, and it’s undermining well-intentioned but often misguided efforts to build connection and drive outcomes.
We shouldn’t blame employees who lack enthusiasm for a time-consuming practice that routinely fails to deliver on its promise. Instead, we need to update our approach to online meetings to make them more effective.
M.R.: Are there any understated realizations that this pandemic has taught us about online meetings?
Barry: Everyone from c-suite leaders to software developers is increasingly reliant on virtual communication and collaboration to create, maintain, and deploy new products and services. In this environment, fostering teamwork and collaboration among disparate, distributed teams is uniquely challenging and incredibly important.
We have every reason to believe that a hybrid workforce is the de-facto new normal. It’s estimated that nearly a quarter of the workforce will work remote by 2025. What’s more, the recent pandemic taught many leaders that they need the capacity to maintain operational continuity regardless of circumstances.
While there are several texts, chat, and videoconferencing platforms that support these priorities, the available platforms are communication tools, not solutions. Simply put, a Zoom account and an internet connection are just the starting point for effective communications. It’s the policies, procedures, and norms that will make meetings meaningful and successful.
M.R.: How can companies revitalize communication and collaboration across their teams?
Barry: Effective meetings will have a purpose and a process. Our study shows that meetings with a clear agenda usually or always met their goals 93% of the time. While correlation and causation are not necessarily inextricably linked, this data point helps identify the meeting elements needed to achieve success.
In addition to creating a meeting agenda, it’s important that it includes a Purpose Statement and Desired Outcomes. The Purpose should answer the question “Why Meet?” Desired Outcomes are brief statements that answer the question, “what will we leave this meeting with?”
To get the most out of the agenda, be sure to send it in advance and review it at the start of a meeting, highlighting the Purpose and Desired Outcomes. Our study found that 95% of intended goals were always or usually met when leaders started meetings with Purpose and Desired Outcomes.
Perhaps most importantly, avoid the “meeting just to meet” meetings. These tend to be standing meetings and routine check-ins without a clear objective. This time together is valuable when it achieves something meaningful. But, it will yield unsuccessful results if it’s not planned out in advance.
Meeting leaders should check in with attendees beforehand on topics they want to cover and desired outcomes they’d like to achieve. The meeting leader can then refine a standing agenda based on those meaningful topics and desired outcomes — and determine the amount of time needed to cover them. If there are no relevant topics to cover, don’t meet.
When meetings have a clear process, team members leave feeling empowered, encouraged, and informed, ready to excel at their respective responsibilities.
M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of SandHill.com