Meetings Don’t Have to Suck

I still think, for the most part, our meetings (the deal call in particular) are pretty wasteful.

Don’t get me wrong, I love talking with the team, but I think it would be better for everyone if the discussion was operating at a higher level.

Currently, the majority of meeting time is “chit-chat” about deals on the table. Problem-solving and/or strategic thinking is almost totally absent.

Now, there is value in “network updates” (a.k.a. chit-chat), but I contend that bringing everyone together for 30min+ is not the best way to disseminate that information.

I personally think written updates would be preferable. Why?

  • It is harder to obscure shaky logic in print
  • It forces one to think more deeply

People would probably be annoyed about an extra “task.” The sell is that you will have more time with this method, but I don’t pretend that pitch would eliminate all complaints.

So, what if it’s this:

  • If you want to bring a deal to a call, you have to provide a few paragraphs which convey why the group should spend time talking about your deal. The update should be read in the first few minutes of the call to set the discussion.
    • General guidelines:
      1. Give a complete overview of how we have handled this type of deal/issue in the past. If the person can’t draw on any experience, the presenter has not thought enough about the deal.
      2. Explain why that past way is insufficient this time, the hard questions the presenter is stumped by, and his/her alternative thoughts/ideas

If there is nothing in #2, why are we even having the call?

The best answer I can think of is if the person is trying solve for #1. That’s cool. Maybe not best to do it on a group call where conformity is an overwhelming force, but not terrible.

If we were actually doing #1 on calls, that would be a serious step up from the status quo.

The other idea is to create group calls post-deal where negotiators must present learnings to the group. If you just spent months negotiating and don’t have a single tidbit that could be valuable for other team members, something has gone terribly wrong. This is not about a play-by-play; it’s about actionable takeaways.

Or maybe it doesn’t have to be post-deal. Once per month, every negotiator has to present one tidbit that should be useful. That’s it.

Could even offer a free lunch for the person with the best tidbit.

Okay. I’ll stop for now.

Changing a culture is never easy.

It can, though, be done.