Every organization has to figure out how to make meetings productive. It's a complex challenge. To be effective, each meeting needs to engage the individual talents of the people involved, work to achieve the organization's specific goals for the moment, and do so in a way that's both culturally relevant and contextually sensitive to the world around it. Not an easy feat.
It can be tempting to shy away from the task. Instead of embracing this complexity, many leaders fall back on simple blanket rules that no one really follows—like the leader that declared all meetings in the company could last no more than 20 minutes. Others delegate responsibility for success to others, even though they themselves are the most frequent meeting attendees. Many leaders claim that meetings are a waste of time, and therefore not worth the effort it would take for the organization to make them work well.
These are common traps that keep an organization locked in a cycle of underperforming meetings and endemic mediocrity.
Here are 5 ways high-performing organizations avoid that fate:
Set clear expectations for all meetings.
Meeting norms, ground rules, guidelines - these set the foundation for building an effective meeting habit.
They often include things like use of an agenda and keeping meetings on time. Whatever your rules, the leadership team must follow them. The way the leadership group meets sets the real standard everyone else follows.
Document and share meeting results.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) compels people to attend meetings they shouldn't. Organizers don't want to leave people out, so they invite everyone who might possibly want to weigh in. Having irrelevant people in the room de-energizes the conversation and disrupts productivity.
Documented meeting results are the fastest and easiest way to combat meeting FOMO. Before the meeting, document the meeting purpose and desired outcomes clearly. Then, send out written meeting results afterwards. When people can see in advance what a meeting is for, then see afterwards what happened, they can decide whether they need to attend. This keeps meetings more focused, and it keeps everyone more productive.
Define “The Way" to meet for all core processes.
There are 16 different types of business meetings, and each has a purpose. A regular team meeting is good for confirming progress and identifying problems, but it's a lousy place to make a big decision. Big decisions demand a dedicated decision-making meeting.
Similarly, the initial meeting with a prospective client (or funder) should look very different from the meeting where you ink the deal. Each of these pivotal meetings can be optimized to drive the results your company needs.
High-performance organizations know the type of meetings they need to run and how to run each one well. Each meeting gets a name and becomes “the way" that kind of work gets done. For example, the team's check-in meeting becomes “the huddle". The meeting to impress prospective clients early in the sales cycle becomes a “services briefing." Anything called simply a “meeting" isn't specific enough.
Leaders spend up to 80% of their work day in meetings, and yet many have never received meeting training. Meetings aren't just conversations with lots of people at work; there are skills and techniques to learn that radically improve meeting results.
High-performance organizations provide skills training to people leading meetings. They also train everyone how to participate in the meetings defined as “the way" to get their job done. Meetings represent an enormous salary investment, and high-performance organizations ensure their people get a good return on that investment.
ABL: Always be learning!
Once they have “the way" to meet, the organization can experiment. What happens when we meet on Monday instead of Wednesday? If we tweak the process, can we make decisions faster?
High-performance organizations have the process stability they need in order to run conclusive experiments and continuously improve their meeting practices.
Bad meetings are not inevitable. Quite the opposite: meetings can be a powerful embodiment of your company's culture and a driver of performance, when designed and run with intention. And the best news: you get to learn from the examples set by high-performance organizations that have already conquered this design challenge. When it comes to meeting design, the adage holds true: Well-stolen is half done!
Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.
At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.
But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?
Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.
But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).
Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."
As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.
- Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
- Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
- Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
- Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?
Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.
Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.
This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.
"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit
Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.
Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.
She was, and still is being, silenced.
After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."
Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."
Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.
Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.