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March 28, 2013

The Best Ending to Any Meeting

March 28, 2013

Meetings get a bad rap a lot of times. Occasionally they can be a rabbit hole of ideas, and instead of feeling like something was accomplished, you walk out with a longer to-do list than what you started with and/or feeling like you just wasted an hour (or more!) of your day. Or you can have great conversation, get the team pumped up and high-fiving (or shoe-fiving if you are a 'Boxer) and then realize that although everyone was inspired, each person walked away with a different understanding of what next steps should be.

The SmallBox team was noticing some inefficiencies in our meetings last fall and wanted to do something about it. We decided as a team to read Patrick Lencioni's book "Death by Meeting." This book was both insightful and entertaining, and our team took away a lot of great ideas. We implemented several of them right away, such as redefining the types of meetings we have and when we have them, as well as having more clarity around who needs to be in those meetings. I think it's safe to say we all felt like we had made significant progress around this area of the business.

In one of our recent leadership meetings, Jeb made a suggestion about another way to continue evolving our meeting format. He recommended that we ask the following question at the end of every meeting: "So what did we decide?" (which is another idea presented in the "Death by Meeting" book). I thought this was a good suggestion, but didn't recognize just how good until I started implementing this in my meetings.

I realized what an incredible difference this made to the outcomes of our meetings. Asking this one question creates so much more clarity about next steps. It clearly defines what team members committed to doing following the meeting and identifies when there is still additional conversation/information needed before a final decision is made. It creates confidence amongst meeting attenders that we are all walking out of the meeting on the same page.

I've realized that asking- and answering- this question creates the clarity that can often be missing at the end of a meeting. Sure, we just spent 45 minutes brainstorming and whiteboarding and talking about all kinds of topics, but is it clear what we actually decided? Did we actually come to any conclusions? Even deciding that we didn't come to any conclusions and then defining what information we still need to finalize something is far more productive than just walking out of a meeting without that clarity. Answering this question helps everyone understand what the meeting was actually about and eliminates that "I just wasted my time" feeling that can often exist.

All this to say, I am completely committed to making sure every meeting I sit in on wraps up by asking and answering this one question: "So what did we decide?" I encourage you to give it a try at your next meeting. I'd love to hear how it goes.

p.s. All of this reiterates the power of asking good questions. Sara sparked some great discussion around that recently. Check out her post.

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