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Strategic Meetings: Focus on Results, Not Tasks

Originally posted: October 23, 2012 on TrishMcFarlane.com

Meetings, meetings, meetings.  We’re all inundated with meetings, many which turn out to be a “report out” of recent tasks.  As leaders, how do we reach beyond this to use meeting time more strategically?  There are several steps we can take to help keep us on track of approaching the strategic level vs. the tactical.

Set the stage

  • Location is important.  Take the location into consideration.  Are you holding your meetings in the same room week after week, month after month?  If you’re trying to generate high-level, creative thinking, consider moving your meeting to a different location.  This may mean holding the meeting outside or offsite.  Often the barrier starts with the very walls that typically hold us in.
  • Provide a clear meeting purpose.  One of the biggest mistakes is to allow meetings to get off track. Be sure to set clear meeting expectations in advance of the meeting so participants will know that a) their time is important to you, b) that you respect their thoughts and participation, and c) that you will not allow other participants to derail the purpose.
  • What outcome is expected?  Often, we set agendas without discussing the needed outcomes.  If you have a specific need to solve a problem, design something, create a timeline, etc., spell that out clearly so that the team can work toward the goal in the time alloted.

Provide background and Discussion

  • Why are we in business and how does our team support the business?  When holding high-level, strategic meetings, it’s important to remind participants why the business exists.  You may think this sounds like something that can and should be skipped, but without this step, the team often reverts to talking about the day-to-day tasks and small goals instead of focusing on the larger purpose.
  • How do we envision the future next year, three years, or five years from today?  Envisioning something is very different from writing down tasks you hope to complete in the next year.  Talk about how changes proposed will IMPACT the business in the next year and what barriers need to be addressed.

Brass Tacks

Prioritize.  Now that you have the visioning complete, talk through team projects and begin to prioritize them in order of the ones that will achieve that goal.  This may mean taking fun projects off the list or ranking them lower in priority.  Be clear with the team that the goal is to aid in not overloading them, but to provide tighter focus on more attainable goals.

Discuss results on priority items.  This is the one portion of the meeting where “reporting out” becomes appropriate.  Only after you’ve talked through the strategy pieces should you spend time on the steps that get you there.  Again, reinforce that the results should be presented in a way that ties them back to the business IMPACT, not just reporting for the sake of sharing.

By engaging your team in a strategic, thoughtful way, you should see a difference in their ability to see the big picture vs. focus on day-to-day outcomes.  What do you do to lead strategic meetings?  What works well and what have you tried that became a barrier?  Thanks for sharing in the comments!



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