The very nature of my position of leadership in the church demands that I spend a lot of time in meetings. “Meetings are toxic,” wrote Fried and Hansson in their book, Rework, and for the most part, I tend to agree.
However, meetings are a necessary evil in many of our organizations, so we must use them wisely or don’t have them at all.
I have found that when I ask this before a meeting or at the very beginning of one, the results are phenomenal. Expectations are set, and a path of productivity for the meeting is paved.
My assistant and I have actually got into a routine of asking this question prior to every meeting on my calendar. She will often simply send an e-mail or have a hallway conversation with the meeting attendee and ask them what would be the most helpful thing to walk away with from their time with me.
By their answer, not only is she able to better prepare me for the meeting, but all parities are able to think through the meeting in advance and, therefore, not waste any time when we are together.
Yes, of course, there are some cases were not able to ask this question prior to the meeting (or the person didn’t answer it), so I begin the meeting by clarifying this expectation with the people or person present.
By asking this simple question, several things happen:
1. It clarifies expectations.
After they share their hopes for the meeting, I will often share what would be most helpful for me (if they haven’t already covered it), or my assistant and I will send this to them in advance. This allows them to know what I am looking for in the meeting as well (especially if I called it). But I always give the person coming to the meeting the chance to answer first (yes, even if I called it) because often something comes out I didn’t know they desired from me.