Have you ever sat in a meeting wanting to pull your hair out in frustration? You are far from alone. Between work and volunteer committments, many of us spend inordinate time in pointless or ineffective meetings, wasting precious time, energy, and money.
Today on Talk Shop I’m sitting down with the master of meetings, Gord Sheppard, to learn about how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness or our meetings so we can stop spinning our wheels and get down to work.
Gord Sheppard: http://createawesomemeetings.com/
Get Gord’s book Create Awesome Meetings for free here: https://howtocreateawesomemeetings.com/get-it-free
Lauren: Hello everybody, my name is Lauren Sergy and this is Talk Shop. The place where you can learn from industry professionals, how to become a better communicator in work and life. Now, today on Talk Shop, we are going to be slaying one of the greatest dragons of the corporate world, bad meetings. And our knight in shining armor is none other than meeting master himself, Gord Sheppard.
Professional meeting facilitator Gord Sheppard is a true guru of the meeting world. After having attended thousands of meetings himself, he’s developed sure fire ways of helping you create more productive and profitable meetings. Gord is the podcaster and host of Create Awesome Meetings on iTunes, and the author of How To Create Awesome Meetings, a step by step guide to better meetings. He teaches meeting design and development courses at institutions including the University of Alberta, Peter Lougheed Leadership College, as well the Calgary and Area Medical Staff Society. He works with association from across Canada to help them increase the effectiveness of their meetings on a day to day basis.
Gord, in your introduction, I called you our shining knight of meetings. You are there to slay the meetings dragons to make our meetings better, but I’m really really curious, most people are not fond of meetings. That’s putting it pretty lightly. On the other hand, you made meetings your bread and butter. How many meetings have you been involved in over the course of your career?
Gord: It’s a crazy, crazy number. I figure in my 25 plus years, for all the different things that I’ve done including a big stretch in corporate. It’s quite possible that I’ve either run or participated in more than 2000 meetings. I say that sadly for the first most of them, essentially for my sake but it also gave me the inspiration to get to the point where I am now. Funny enough, when I get talks across Canada, I’ll say, “Oh, I’ve been in 200 meetings.” Some people gasp and are like, “Oh my goodness.” Other people hang their heads because they’ve been in more than that. When I think about how inefficient most meetings are, it’s just ridiculous that we aren’t making meeting leadership in my opinion the primary issue … I was trying to put this into context recently. We can’t get to environmental change, we can’t get to changing gun laws or whatever before we actually learn how to meet productively, so that we can actually get through our major issues.
I think meeting leadership honestly as I beat the drum, it is the issue of this century and moving forward, if we can get that solved, then we could really get on to the good stuff.
Lauren: Right. I don’t feel that that’s an exaggeration of the importance of them at all. It’s a shame that meetings have such a bad rap. Because realistically, if the meeting goes better, the conversations go better. Instead, what you have are thee really useless meetings, whatever you want to call the meetings, whether it’s a bunch of politicians yelling at each other during question period. The function of that, I honestly really do wonder about, whether it’s our politicians yelling at each other during question period of several employees in a board room yelling at each other across the board room table or just sitting back arms crossed and not really participating or falling asleep because things are going so bad. That is a genuine problem that impedes conversation. So-
Gord: It’s absolutely ridiculous and I think the big thing is that I hear over and over again, there are certain things that are repetitive but people say, “We don’t why we’re meeting.” This happens in corporate all the time. Happens in non profit all the time. I think what stuns me is when people start to break it down and get away from assuming that the meeting leader knows what they’re doing. Here is a classic. If you have a title, it doesn’t mean that you know how to run a meeting. You’re the CEO, you’re the Executive Director, you’re the Chief of Surgery. These are chunky titles, and what’s assumed with what goes with them, is that now you’re the guy in front of now your team of nine, 10, 1000, whatever that is. It’s assumed that you know how to run a meeting and yet people don’t actually take the time, and in my opinion it’s not years and years of study, not that you can’t do that. I think it’s in the neighborhood of six to 10 hours to get some basic skills under your belt so that those guys that have those titles can really start to run better meetings and make them better.
The second part that I was going to say that comes up over and over again, about the why are we meeting is that I believe that every meeting that you have, doesn’t matter where it is, should be connected directly to your strategy. Now, I can tell you that giving the talks, and in working one on one, I’ll say a simple thing, what is the vision statement for your organization, for your business, for your non profit? 95% of the time, people don’t know what it is. I had somebody who’s in a scenario recently, where they said, “Well, I know what it is but I hate it.” Well, don’t say, “Why are we meeting.” Don’t wonder why you’re meeting if you actually don’t have the org direction figured out. But if you can figure out the org direction and connect it to every meeting, what it starts to do is we take it from an annual process where four of five key leaders get together and they cook up some scheme about their vision and their key objectives, and it gets a feedback loop starting on a weekly basis, on a daily basis.
The meetings are happening because you know then if you ask at the beginning of a meeting, and you state the vision statement out loud, and then you get to the end of the meeting and say, “Did we serve that vision?” State the key objective out loud, we have to increase sales 30%. We have to improve patient outcomes. It doesn’t mater where you’re from, state it at the beginning of the meeting, and then at the end of the meeting, answer it, and don’t be in the meeting, that I was in in corporate, where we spent an hour figuring out the gluten free hot dog issue for the summer staff barbecue, when the profits were way way down. It just didn’t make any sense.
Lauren: That’s not a good use of anyone’s time.
Gord: It’s ridiculous and that what I’ve been experienced in and now it’s what I’m pound against is to say, “Get it clear at then beginning why you’re there and then answer that by the end. And if you can’t answer that, don’t have the meeting.”
Lauren: Yes, that fundamental question of why. What do you think are the worst reasons people call meetings?
Gord: The one that’s killing me is the update meeting, or it’s the check in meeting, whatever you want to call it. There’s massive fatigue around this. I’ve got sales teams I’ve dealt with, I’ve got managers I’ve dealt with, and they say, “Well, I’m having this meeting …” They don’t remember why they’re having it anymore. They get the same people together and I can’t [inaudible 00:06:43] when I say this, usually with those regular team meetings, could be a staff meeting in a school or whatever. I say that they’re all on the submarine together. And when you’re on the submarine together, there’s a lot of things going on. Whether you want to call it body odor or whatever. When it comes to meetings, they get into these weird patterns, worst than families, right?
Gord: That update meeting where you know what’s going on and you know that you’re going to be really related to what’s going on, I think those are the ones that really need a kick in the pants so that they can be livened up or you can start to call and shorten them, so that they’re more effective. But certainly, don’t allow this dribble that goes on and on. I’m hearing this hour and two hours of people’s lives on a weekly or a bi-monthly or monthly basis, where they’re at this updates meeting and they know they’re going to waste time. So they arrive late, they get there, they disengage, they’re on their phone. Some people are bringing knitting I was hearing recently. They’re just trying to do anything but be there in body and mind, where they need to be actually.
Lauren: That’s absolutely dreadful. That’s makes me wonder too, with our meetings, I’ve often felt this, are they a way of avoiding more different work, because I swear, I have sat in on a lot of meetings that seem to have been called so that the people there or at least the person who called the meeting didn’t have to take responsibility for doing the hard work, or for making the decisions. They just sit down and say, “So, what is everyone else think?”
Gord: I think that’s one of those things by management, by lack of preparation or management, by being there in mind and body but nothing else. I think that happens. You get these cultures where that’s the accepted thing. The other thing that manager or that leader is doing is they’re showing up unprepared, absolutely unprepared. And they’re completely disrespecting other people’s time. It’s funny, this is obvious, when I say this out loud now, what I realize is happening is people start to nod, and then they start to gush, because they just want to say exactly what I said out loud, but they’re often not in power to do it, and they’re not the ones who are going to be the one to say, “We should fire that meeting facilitator. That guy is not any good for what we’re doing. You’re not moving anything forward and I’m depressed.”
The other thing that I’m trying to save people from, whether that you’re a participant or you’re the leader of a meeting, what’s happening is I’ll say, If you’re spending more time complaining about meetings, than the time that you’re actually spending in the meetings, there is a big problem. I can tell you right now, for the gillions of meetings that are happening across Canada, across the world alone, people are going home at night, and they’re saying, “That update meeting was a waste of time, I can’t believe it.” I’m trying to save your spouse, I’m trying to save your mom, whoever it is that you go blah blah to at night, if you don’t put effort into the meeting thing that you’re so tired of, you really make a change in it, then you’re wasting their time too. It’s double wasting time, it’s ridiculous.
Lauren: Yes, it really is nuts. I can certainly understand that factor of they want someone to say something about this. And you’re in a unique position Gord in terms of what you do with coming in and teaching people how to actually have a meeting. It is assumed that everyone should know how to have a meeting. Heaven forbid we point out that the CEO, or whoever in the building is typically holding the meeting, whoever is senior level person is that’s calling this thing, that they know what they’re doing.
Last time we were chatting, a term sprung up spontaneously that said that you Gord have the power to speak truth to nonsense.
Gord: I absolutely do. What I say a lot these days, is I’m not in the family. I’m the guy who can, I’m going to say respectively, maybe a little bit impatiently say the things that need to be said, because in my opinion, in those meetings, if we added up the to do list for any organization, it’s in the hundreds, thousands of things to do. If you’re losing time during those meetings, you’re not going to be ultimately putting your meetings together to have a better organization to serve your end client, your end customer at the highest level. I think it breaks down right in that meeting level. When I speak truth to power, when I’m able to say to a Vice President of X, “Hey, what’s your vision statement?” And they can’t say it, then we start to … I’m not there to slaughter them. What I’m there to do is say, “Okay, so you don’t know, what do you want to do about that?” It allows them the option of saying, “Well, we’re not going to do anything, and we’ll have the same results or, wait a minute, we can start to do something about that and actually get it going.”
I was saying fire the facilitator earlier, I’m all about not just saying truth to what’s going on or saying what’s on people’s minds, but giving people actionable tips that they can immediately put to use.
Gord: Something that they can get into their next meeting and inject it with some new energy. That fire the facilitator thing, I don’t always mean that, what I mean to say is, to shock people at first in office, we’ll we can’t let that guy go and whatever. I’m saying, great, how could you build in, I’m going to say six to eight hours of basic training to allow him to get his skills up from a five out of ten to a eight out of ten within two months. I’m looking at an hour every two weeks that they’re actually spending on this skill building alone and then, you can imagine the engagement level that would go up with just that or the one about fire the facilitator, here’s an option. You’re a helpless person in a meeting, you might make a suggestion to the facilitator is not very good, and say, “Hey, can we rotate the chair? Wouldn’t it be neat if everyone in here had a turn at running the meeting?” At least, then it gets that facilitator or that role for just maybe a few meetings, other people start to be able to demonstrate best practice or best behavior and you start to share the burden.
These are practical things that people can at least try to overcome that really poor facilitator thing as just one example of one of the aspects of meetings.
Lauren: Right. You mentioned sharing the burden. Burden is a very good metaphor for this because I do think there’s a lot of baggage that we’re bringing into our meetings. Can you tell us a little bit about the psychological baggage that people carry into the meetings themselves?
Gord: I would say exasperation is the one of the top ones. Think about your non profit volunteer meetings that you’ve gone to. We’re going to roll in, we’re all going to be nice Canadians about it, we’re not going to really say anything. There was one time … A story I like to tell is I was a consultant doing a strategy session for a non profit group. Good consultant, you sit there and it’s 10 minutes into when we were starting and now it’s 15 minutes late and going on 20. This really nice board chair shows up. He’s like 65 years old, and he starts chit chatting with the guys, and there’s 10 people in the room. Good consultant I should just maybe sit there and
Lauren: Sorry, so he showed up 20 minutes in?
Gord: He showed up 20 minutes late. This is the board chair, okay? Then, what happened for me, good consultant, I’m going to roll along with this and shut up. There was something instinctive that happened for me that day. I stood up, I looked at this nice man, and I said, “You’re late, you’re talking about something that nobody in here cares about, and this meeting if you added it up is probably worth $2000 an hour, what do you want to do about it?” Now, I figured that I’d pack my bags up and go then because I’ve insulted everybody. But the reason I came [inaudible 00:13:55] is this, the guy to his left, the guy they worked hard to get on to control all the finances, he went like this. He went, “Thank goodness somebody said something.” That is exactly what’s going on when I say exasperation.” There’s something where we’re holding back, we know what to do often, sometimes we don’t. But we know what to do, the exasperation is there, but somehow, we’re complicit in going along and accepting what’s happening.
One of the immediate things that I’m looking for, back to a practical tip is just simply, put the word ground rules somewhere on the agenda, somewhere on the whiteboard, somewhere. Put it up and just in the first one minute of meeting, just say, “What are the ground rules for our meeting? One, what we’re going to do is cellphones.” Decide, declare it out loud. “Do we all agree? Great. If there’s a fight, what are we going to do?” I usually say, make sure on the ground rules say, “One person speaks, it’s about the issue, not about the person.”
Suddenly you said three very powerful things that start to align the behavior and allow them to get away from exasperation, give them an open forum about their best suggestions about how to make this meeting better because they’re usually different a little bit here and there. And they get things moving forward, but I think the psychological baggage really that you were alluding to, is this exasperation, or sometimes people are following along just to survive and they’re not contributing. So, they’re culturally in a situation where they’re not bringing their best piece forward.
Another one that comes up is the types of people that are in the meeting. Do you have the right people in the meeting to solve the problem that you’re solving? That’s one. The second thing is, introverts and extroverts. Now, I’m an extrovert, so I’m always one of the guys on the blah blah side. I probably blah blah too much when I’m in meeting. The introverts are not being optimized. When I say, we’re bringing that in, they’re just used to being quiet, it’s actually a nightmare for them to speak in public. There’s a wonderful Ted talk by a woman named Susan Cain. She runs quietrev.org. She as an introvert, who know speaks about introverts and the power of introverts. She says, “You know, in these meetings these days, often we’re getting the best ideas, and the best talkers, not necessarily the best ideas.” When I hear that and we say, “Well, who is in the room and what’s, the best way to get the best out of each person when they’re there?” So, there’s more baggage that’s coming in.
Plus, if you look at someone like what Susan Scott says. Susan Scott fierceinc, who wrote a great book called the Fierce Conversations. She talks about competing realities. Quite literally, someone in a meeting can say something and you’re going to get six, seven, eight different reactions, they’re going to all hear it in a different way. It’s a complex setting and to not acknowledge that complexity and then at least have a strong leader who’s ready to deal with that and maneuver, take the time to really prepare it, we’re going to keep getting these mediocre results that we’re getting right now in many many meetings.
Lauren: Right. It keeps coming back to that notion that dealing with meetings, running a meeting is a skill and it’s often a skill that needs to be taught. It’s the same sort of assumption that I come up with, with the public speaking training. People think that they should just be able to talk. That they should just be able to do this, that it’s a natural skill, it’s not. The natural knowledge, the knowledge of how to hold a meeting isn’t something that’s inborn into us. It’s not like walking, right?
Gord: I’ve been in university settings, you’re exactly right. I’ve been in university settings where I’m teaching 60 students at a time [inaudible 00:17:27] What I get feedback from the students afterwards, they’ve been through a business school. I did my MBA, I didn’t get taught any of these skills in the MBA. I would say it should be in an MAB, it should be at least an undergraduate setting in a business school if not in most programs. I think it’s one of these critical things, and I think it probably could be introduced at the high school level as an example. But I said again, this assumption that people are going to go out and they’re going into these leadership roles and they don’t have these basic skills that they need. It’s just my hope to amplify this even more because I know that if we drop this pebble in the pond, when I know that you’re doing your great work on helping people with the presentation skills, and they get those things in, they’re going to amplify. When these meeting skills get put in place, it’s massive organizational impact.
One of the key cornerstones that I teach about, for example, maybe I’ll ask you, do you have a mentor?
Lauren: Yes I do, I have a couple.
Gord: What’s that experience like for you?
Lauren: It completely shortcuts the amount of flailing that I need to do when I’m confronted with something new or something that I don’t understand, or when I need to talk out a problem.
Gord: I’m so glad you’ve put it that way. It shortcuts the flailing. One of the things that I want to do from one on one mentorship, is I really advocate for meeting mentorship. Someone within your organization is really good at running meetings. Well, you get the guy that’s a poor facilitator, and what you do is you bring that meeting mentor into the situation. They come in for one meeting, they observe the poor facilitator at work, and then they go for coffee afterwards in this first step and they’re able to then … He can give notes back to the facilitator.
The second step of this really quick process that I’m looking for in any organization is for the meeting mentor to run the next meeting. And then the facilitator gets to sit back and watch what occurred. They get to see someone who is really good at it model off of their behavior, plus, when I get hired to facilitate, and I do all day strategy sessions and they’re energetic and they go well, and all this kind of stuff. When I get hired, one of the feedbacks that I get from senior leaders is, who are usually running the meetings, they’re like, “Wow, I got to sit back and watch my team.”
Not only is this meeting mentorship thing one way to learn facilitation skills, it’s also an investment in a senior leader’s opportunity to see their guys from a different perspective. It’s very simple. What did I just describe? Two meetings worth. I’m not saying, go and take an HR course and study and study and study. You can if you want go deep in facilitation. I’m saying, this is a rapid, get into your system, get it into your volunteer setting, get it into your corporation, get it into healthcare and see then if we can grow the meeting mentors in that community so that the facilitator, who is flailing or the new guy who raised up in title. I was an employee, now I’m a manager, has a go to resources within the organization that they can go to and then they’re immediately going to be getting help in this area.
Lauren: That’s really powerful. That really really is. It would make the difference for a lot of people in a lot of organizations. There’s something that you mentioned a couple of minutes ago that I’m going to cast back to. That was the cost of meetings. When you said this one meeting where the board chair showed up 20 minutes late, that meeting alone probably cost them about $2000. What are meetings actually costing us? Because that seems like a big number.
Gord: I’ll try and put some reality to that, because I’m glad to hear you say that. Some people are skeptical when I start to say thousands and not hundreds, or whatever that is. Do you have favorite hockey team?
Gord: Yay, Oilers.
Lauren: I’m an Edmonton girl.
Gord: Here’s the thing, average NHL team pays their player about 60 million bucks a year. Now, they work 2000 hours a year like you and me, at one hour meeting with those guys is $30000. So, 30 grand, you can imagine those Oilers if they don’t make the playoffs, what’s that last one hour meeting like? How’s that feel when you’re paying $30000 to watch guys shine in their golf clubs and walk into the summer [inaudible 00:21:25] The crazy part is, when we don’t add up the cost … You could add up wages if you want. Folks make 50 bucks an hour, 10 bucks an hour, whatever that is. You got to add up the lights, you got to add up the building cost, whatever that is, and the big thing that has to be costed out and it’s a soft number, but it has to be real is the opportunity cost. It could be somewhere else, or I could be right here doing this.
If you’re wasting your time right here doing this no matter what and you’re not applying a number to it, I’m just looking forward to it to be an accountability measure. The other thing that I say is if you want to take this a step further, get a box of Cleanex for your CEO, because what you can do is you can map all the meetings in your organization. Look at a organization like Rodger’s, 25000 employees. I think I did the math of … One of my favorite ones is Alberta health. $25 billion budget. It’s arguable that they’re spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million a year on meetings. I could take you through a map of-
Gord: It’s arguable. There’s 100000 employees. You just start to do simple math, like employees go to two meetings a week, and you add it up, on average, this and that 400 bucks a meeting. Your viewers can double check and find the place challenging. What I’m looking for there then is, if you’re spending 50 million bucks a year out of that budget on meetings, what would happen if we could call the bottom 5% of the worst ones? We just get rid of them. It’s not getting rid of them what you’re doing is suddenly you’ve gotten as a manager, $5 million worth of resource to reallocate. Let’s reallocate it. What would happen if you reallocated millions to one emergency setting and allowed that to be the way to start to do it. Pull someone out of the meeting, get them back into their core role for what they’re supposed to be doing.
Lauren: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Gord: That could have a direct impact I believe on the given situation. I advocate for this because I hope that people would add up these numbers first before they actually start to cut bodies. The accountants get in there and they start cutting, boom, boom, slash. I think this one of those steps before slash. One of the problems is, if you look at the annual reporting, they’ll give you a line for wages, they’ll give you a line for overhead, but they’re not going to give you a line for meetings. I think this is one of these things that any leader, executive director, CEO, should have a number on, and then you’re looking at basically, what is my MROI? My meeting return on investment? If you’re getting something … because in the meetings, they’re not all bad. In some of those meetings, the sales meetings especially, something happens where there is an innovation or a big sale. What are the ingredients that went into that meeting and how can we repeat that because it’s not all bad? So, what do we do on that side as well, it could be an investment.
It’s just really looking at it in a different way and not in this tired way where it’s like, “I got to go do this thing again”
Lauren: Right. That idea of adding up the time cost, I think is really really big. The opportunity cost is huge of course, what else could we be doing this? But in terms of the bin counting, that hourly time cost just in terms of who is in the room, the numbers immediately start flying up and while they’re high. When I’ve worked with meetings and have organized meetings myself in the past, usually when we say meeting cost, we’re looking at thing like catering. How much did that morning coffee break cost us? But in terms of things like the hourly per person cost of their time.
Gord: I really think if non profit wants to reform, I think you have to put a number on non profit volunteer time. What happens is that the high functioning non profit volunteers, they’ve all come from accounting, medical, HR. They’ve already been doing this for 30 years if they’re in that 50, 60 zone. They’re used to running the efficient things. [inaudible 00:25:16] things, and at least it might be one of the ways for somebody in the room to create some accountability around being their best again, as a leader or a follower in a meeting situation.
Lauren: Yep. Within your work, speaking truth to nonsense, I just live that term, I’m keeping it. One of the truths that you bring up is that we are burning out our best people in too many meetings. How many meetings do the attendees, in say your workshops typically sit in?
Gord: When I’m in the room with say, a group of healthcare leaders, or I’m in the room with a group of engineer types, one of the exercise I like to do … Maybe we can just do this right now [inaudible 00:25:55]
Gord: Throw your hand up in your one meeting per week. Now, keep it up if you’re in two meetings per week. Now, play along with me, keep it up if you’re in three, four, five, six, seven, eight … Seven. So you’re at seven, right? And that’s in your business, in your role. There was woman in one of these workshops, probably one of the highest paid people in the room, who kept her hand up till 25.
Gord: 25 meetings a week. There’s no way in that-
Gord: Can you imagine, this woman shows up for her interview, “Here you’re going to work 37.5 hours a week, and you’re going to have this, this and this in your job description.” I didn’t say 25 meetings a week. She was getting swamped in these meetings. That poor woman … It’s funny at 10, sort of 12-ish. It’s not funny at 25. What’s happening is we’ve got this tier, you look into any down town, just take a picture of any sky rise; Chicago, Paris, New York, it doesn’t matter. In all those towers, you’ve got your guys they’re earning 80, 100, maybe 200000 bucks a year and they’re getting swamped out in these meetings. What’s happening is they’re going during the day time, Monday to Friday, they get swamped out in these meetings. They’re trying to get their regular stuff done. They have to go home at night and then they do their work at night.
This is the truth now, this is the reality. They do their work at night, so what does that do? It imbalances their life, their spousal relationships, their relationship with their kids are highly impacted. They’re very unhappy. They can go at that pace for two months, three months, six months, 18 months, and then they’re gone. You’ve lost your best guy. But your best guy is A type, and he couldn’t admit it. Now, instead of going to him and going, “How many meetings are you in a week?”
Here is one, project manager at down town Emerton bought my book and he was inspired by it. He went to his boss, and he said, “Why do we need to meet for an updates meeting once a week for an hour?” She said, “Well, we’ve always done it that way.” He said, “Well, can we meet every two weeks?” Well, reluctantly she said, “Yes, okay, we’ll try it.” They did it. Now, they’re meeting twice a month instead of four times. She did it with all her other project managers. Now she’s got a month back into her life-
Lauren: That’s huge.
Gord: -from that one adjustment. Massive. Can you imagine as a senior leader getting a day back into what you’re doing? Then suddenly, those special projects start to look more attractive because they’re not extra, right?
Gord: I’m saying, be conscious of the meeting time, be intentional about meetings and know which ones you’ve got to get rid of, know which ones you have to amplify and really move forward in that way. You’re going to impact not only your organization, but you’ll impact your personal satisfaction.
Lauren: Yes. That would make a very big difference. In terms of the timing of the meetings, once again, for this woman who is 25 meetings a week, let’s average the meetings out for an hour because that feels like about the amount of time that most people schedule a meeting for. There is the time to get to it, the time to come back from it, the time to mentally prep from it. Even if it’s in the same building. So, you take five minutes to get from the meeting room back to your desk, and then you sit down at your desk and it takes you another five minutes of just blah, until your brain can get on the next task. That number is staggering.
Gord: And yet, look how quickly you can cut through this.
Gord: I’m not talking about doing a big study. I mean, in your head, do some quick math, acknowledge it, and then deal with it, and deal with it today. Anybody watching this right now, and I say this when I’m in the room, with the clients. Do it right now. There’s nothing to wait for. It’s low hanging fruit. You will gain so much momentum if you’re able to get things moving forward in a much more efficient fashion. When I say do it right now, here’s one for you. On the Create Awesome Meetings Podcast, a guy named Larry Schwenneker a guy I interviewed. Senior guy, running a $500 million portfolio. You know what he would do? He would lock the door when the meeting started. 9:00 AM, lock the door. One time, his boss was late for a meeting. His boss pounding on the door. He let him in? No. How many times has that happened? One time. Did Larry get balled out for it? He sure did, but guess who did that afterwards, his boss.
That is a rapid tool, you do it quickly, and then you don’t have to go through this, “Oh, why are people late all the time?” Just cut it off. Go through a little bit of pain, and move that forward and you will energize, you will ignite people. They see, they’ll follow, they’ll get in line a lot faster. They’ll get a lot more done.
Lauren: Right. It’s very true. It’s actually one of your truths that this notion that people think at it’s okay to be late for a meeting, it’s not. Lock the damn door.
Gord: Lock the damn door, make sure people are goin in there. Really. What are we looking for in here? It’s all behavior change and accountability is where you’re headed. Some people are going to resonate with the locked door, some people want to resonate with the costing issue, some people want to resonate with the why issue.
Another piece that I think people need to resonate with is, if you can’t get a why from your boss or from your workplace, you have to think about your own why. Why are you there? And are you willing to out up with the negative contribution that you’re making. Let’s say you’re having a hard time with that kind of thing. Where I look for things there is, can you find your own inspiration?
One of the stories I like to tel there is, there was a woman, when I worked in the corporate setting for a long stretch, maybe too long. There was a woman that was quiet. She’d be in these meetings, these staff meetings that I was in. I didn’t really know her. Didn’t make an effort to get to know her. But one time at a Christmas party, I had a chance to chat with her and it was this great eye opening experience. I found that on a very modest salary, this woman who had been in all of these meetings, she sent more than half of it back to another country. She built a house for her parents, she also put most of her cousins through post secondary education.
Gord: This woman was sitting right next to me in a meeting. What I’m saying is, let’s get out of the, “Oh, somebody is late, or somebody is using their phone.” And start to think about, “Wait a minute, that person’s a great mom, that guy is a great hockey coach. That person takes care of the parents back in another country.” Find that reason to be accountable, find that reason to make yourself be on time. Don’t allow yourself into that thing. So, grapple onto something, find your accountability to create … The awful part is, salaries don’t make people accountable. It just doesn’t work. This is why I’m looking for these other reasons to find some situation where we actually start to invest and be accountable for our behavior. Especially around being late.
Lauren: Connect with the human in the room and be there for them and respect them as a human not just as a title or a position or someone who is dragging you into a meeting.
Gord: The old habits are what are killing us. We get into that old rhythm and you got to be ale to break up the rhythm. One of the things that I say for facilitators is, have somebody introduce you during a meeting. They’re like, “What do you mean? I just started talking” I’m like, “No, you want to actually give somebody a different look or a different feel when you’re leading a meeting. Or be prepared to give some anecdotes about yourself.”I spoke to someone recently, “Well, I don’t really like to talk about my personal life. And I’m like, “What do you get excited about?” “Well, I really love coaching.” I’m like, “That’s great. Who do you love to coach?” Suddenly she’s got this great story. I’m like, “Do you share that with your staff?” She’s like, “No.” I’m like, “Why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you take two seconds to freshen up your approach and your next meeting? Again, whether you’re the leader or the follower? These are simple igniters. But try it out, get it going in your next meeting.”
Lauren: You’ve got a great meeting truth. Our meeting pain tolerance is too high. Tell me about that.
Gord: You can imagine in our regular cultures. I was in an education scenario where they were talking about … I said the strategy piece. I said, “What is your vision statement for the whole organization?” They were like, “I don’t know.” And then someone said, “Well, it’s this, but we don’t like it.” I said, “Why would you allow that to be the case? Why are you showing up for work? Why can’t you take that statement and make it your own and turn it into something you can really make useful for the people that are on the ground?” That’s one of those ones where they’re going through the paces and their pain tolerance for not knowing why they’re there is really really high-
Lauren: We want to bring it down.
Gord: Pardon me.
Lauren: We want to bring that pain tolerance down so we stop doing this.
Gord: We need to stop doing it. This things about it’s okay to be late, then everybody starts to be late. It’s okay to come unprepared. For example, agendas, if you’re a senior leader and you’re not spending anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes on an agenda, then you’re not respecting people in the room. But how many senior leaders are winging it? They’re showing up and they’re like, “Okay, I’m going to go round the room and do this thing.” It’s ridiculous.
Lauren: Oh, the round table.
Lauren: God save me from all round tables.
Gord: Stop the round tables.
Lauren: Not the round tables.
Gord: But what can we do about it, well, as the facilitator there, you can actually put some time into preparing for the meeting, but don’t go and be a complainer about the meeting where your pain tolerance is high and say, “Why don’t people do anything that I say. Actually put in the time to prepare.” Suddenly you’ll et some momentum into that given situation.
The other thing that we have a massive high pain tolerance for, and please don’t do it is mass email after the meeting. Nobody reads it. Nobody is doing anything about it. Someone is hammering out those meeting minutes and nobody reads them. How many minutes have you been in especially in the non profit sector, it was like, “Can I have a motion… “First thing in the meeting, can I have a motion to approve the minuted from last meeting. And these other hands fly up and there tired and no one’s read them.
Lauren: Or everyone starts frantically reading them right then and there. That’s taking another five minutes.
Gord: This is ridiculous. Here is the thing, what’s the reality about meeting minutes? Now, maybe somewhere in there, you’ve got some by laws or illegal things where you actually have to record some hardcore details. The retention of most people in the room is what? One, two, three, items. Get three items the top of the minutes, allow that to be the retention, and then the rest of it you’re going to put into a situation where maybe you’ve got a sub group that actually goes after it and make fine truth of it. But people have a pain tolerance for meeting minutes and we are complicit in going along with this ridiculous rouse where people aren’t really doing anything, it’s crazy.
Lauren: It really is nuts. So, you’ve got a lot of meeting truths that you’ve laid out. I’m going to link to that section of your website in the show notes and the show description.
Lauren: There’s one more truth that I want to address. Bad meetings hurt our clients. What are we doing to our clients? Never mind ourselves within the organization, our clients by holding these meetings?
Gord: I’ll start at the phrase that I like to dig into this area with. What would happen in your next meeting if you treated everyone in the room like they were your best customer? You know how to treat your customers, right?
Lauren: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Gord: People say they do. What if we started to do that with each other? What kind of ripple effect would that have by the time you started treating your customers?
Gord: This is just how we treat each other, so that’s of course how we treat you. I think everything that happens in an organization happens in a meetings. So, if the meetings are are going poorly, that’s your Canary in the coal mine, right?
Gord: Poor little Canary is either singing the big song, or he’s dead because that meeting is really really poor. When you add up all these meetings that take place within an organization, which are necessary to make it run at all, if they’re not running well, there’s no chance, it’s not even possible to serve your client, your customer, your whoever at the highest level. So, yes, definitely that meeting counts, every meeting counts. If you can make each one count, they start to get into that mood, and imagine you bring that customer service level to each other, imagine what would happen there by the time you get to the end guy.
Typically, what’s happening is these meetings are breaking down, and that’s a big part of the food chain from start to finish of by the end customer not getting great service.
Lauren: Right. It’s a hard truth and a very very hard one to acknowledge. I definitely recommend that everyone watching, listening to this, do check out that link on Gord’s 10 Meeting Truths. They are eye opening and very challenging. Really challenging to the assumptions that we have about our meetings. So, Gord, you are the guru of fixing meetings. You wrote a great book, How To Create Awesome Meetings. I’ve been through it, it is fantastic. You’ve got a really generous offer with that book, tell us about that.
Gord: There’s an opportunity right now where you can get it for free. You just pay a little bit of shipping and it’s one of those things where you’ll get a copy of the book. It’s one of those books that I think is really going to have something in there that you can out to use right away. Because you can hear the practical way that I speak, that’s the way the book is written. You can make sure you get in there, just sign up for it, and it will get shipped out to you right away and you can just put it into action.
The thrill that I have and what always ask for no matter whether I’m speaking to people like yourself or I’m in a large group or whatever. If something happens from watching this or from reading the book, you’ve got a good result, just fire me a quick email. I’d love you’re … Go to createawesomemeetings.com, I’d love to get the feedback back and say, you know what, that one thing, it made things way better. Just like that project manager who suddenly went from one meeting a week to one every two weeks. That other manager got something back. This is the ripple effect that we have. The crazy part about facilitation and addressing this issue, and the reason that I’m hopeful, is that we can’t have enough facilitators. There aren’t enough facilitators. So, any facilitators out there, go do more of this. Go pick, up whatever resources you have and influence your communities in the right way because it’s one of the biggest biggest problems that we have.
According to businessinsider.com, just one more step before we go. There’s $37 billion lost every year due to unproductive meetings in the United States alone. If we take some fast math, and again, you can challenge this if you want-
Lauren: And it’s billion with a B?
Gord: It could be a trillion dollars lost to bad meetings around the world every year. A trillion dollars. Now, if it’s a $100 trillion dollar economy, imagine 1% of the economy being lost to something that we’re really supposed to have a lot more control over. My hope is that your audience will join me in changing the world one meeting at time and get a few of those trillion bucks back today. Tomorrow in your next meeting, get the book, get the podcast, watch something like this, do something to make your next meeting better.
Lauren: So, Gord, where can people find more of you? Where can they get this book offer?
Gord: Go to createawesomemeetings.com and you’ll find it there.
Lauren: Awesome, I’ll make sure that I put on all of the links in the description down below as well as a link to Gord’s podcast. It’s a wonderful podcast. You’ve just hit a milestone in subscribers too haven’t you?
Gord: It’s funny, it’s creeping up even more now. We’re up over 7000 downloads and thrilled about that. I met a guy from Jordan.
Lauren: From Jordan, really?
Gord: The power of getting around the world and doing that kind of stuff. But I know it’s one of those things where people are … Again, it’s very practical in what it is. They are 13 minutes, 15 minutes, really good for senior leaders. Get in there, you don’t need to pick up all the concepts. Maybe you’ll pick up one or two and suddenly you’ve got agenda suggestions, or you’ve got facilitation or follow up suggestions, again that you can put to use right away.
Lauren: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much Gord, you have always been so generous with your time and with your knowledge. We’re really happy. By we, I mean all of the listeners, it’s the royal we. We’re really happy that you are here with us on the Talk Shop. Now, do you have some ideas for making your next meeting better? After this show, I sincerely hope you do. If so, make sure you hit that like button, subscribe to this channel. For even more great resources on communication in work and life from myself, from people like Gord, head over to laurensergy.com and sign up for my newsletter.
Thank you for being here with us today, and I look forward to seeing you again on the next Talk Shop. Bye bye.