I wasted time, now time doth waste me. – William Shakespeare
Meetings move at the speed of the slowest mind in the room. – Dale Dauten, Business Author
I think both Shakespeare and Mr. Dauten had the chance to go to some bad meetings. It is easy (and totally justifiable) to complain about meetings. They require the investment of your most precious resource, time. Frequently the return on that investment is left wanting. But if Mr. Dauten is indeed correct, we can speed up our minds during a meeting, we’ll get better results.
One of my former colleagues once asked “what do clipping nails, eating ice cream, and doing pushups all have in common? I’ve done them all during a (phone) meeting.” The audience laughed – because we’ve all felt it. During interminable meetings, our minds wander – at best, trying to find a way to get more value out of that time and, at worst, settle for simply feeling busy.
So, what are you doing to make meetings better?
In a recent meeting, colleagues and I happened upon a game changer for our meetings that sped up our ability to communicate, share ideas, and get more out of our time. The meeting occurred via Zoom (a popular video meeting platform). Zoom is great to share audio, video, and presentations – it’s an excellent way to consume information. Our chance discovery was to share a Google Doc during the meeting. Our goal was to use this as a simple way to take notes as we learned about a client’s business.
What happened instead was the creation of a remarkable amount of energy and engagement. It was one of those moments where you could feel a team coming together. A simple, free piece of technology was a big enabler. Google Docs (and other platforms) allow users to simultaneously contribute to a single document. As the meeting continued, it was possible to actually see ideas and insights form on the page in front of me – and build on them. Our auditory senses would quickly be overwhelmed if we tried to all talk at once and share our thoughts. Instead, I felt fully immersed in communication. Opening up this other channel engaged multiple parts of our brains simultaneously and on the same subject. As an added benefit, we had a written record of the information we shared.
In discussions with team members afterwards, we all felt it. The most familiar comparison for me was on a well-improvised play from my water polo days. Communication was seamless – I could feel where my teammate was going and the right way for us to complete the play. For anyone who has been in a moment like that with a team, whether it be improv group, jamming with your band, or in a sport, you know that feeling of exhilaration.
This felt entirely distinct from the ubiquitous and much derided concept of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking implies split attention. Everyone’s attention was in one place.
I believe that you can create the conditions for team flow (check out chapter 8 of the book of Rise of Superman for a great description). In the most unexpected of places (a meeting!), we found flow.
As a result of this experience, we always share a google doc in meetings. Often, it is built directly off of a meeting agenda. This has increased the density of information shared and has added additional leverage to our time. We are experimenting with how to how use this concept further and it’s bearing fruit.
More value out of my time, with no investment? I’m in.
About the Author
Matt Sitter is a partner at Advantary, LLC and leads Advantary’s Executive Capital practice which optimizes the operations, processes, and behaviors of an organization to drive productivity and profitability. Matt is passionate about how teams collaborate and communicate.
Prior to joining Advantary, Matt has led diverse functions from Operations to Product Management to Software Development to Clinical Operations. Most recently, Matt worked to implement adaptability at scale with companies large and small and across industries at the advisory firms CrossLead, Inc. and the McChrystal Group.