How To Make Your Meeting Not Suck

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Photo: Pixabay/StartupStockPhotos

Does your team need a daily huddle?

We’ve all had meetings where we focused more on snagging the last donut than we did to the presentation. That’s because meetings suck. At best, they can interrupt your workflow; at worst, they can leave you feeling more confused than ever. But that’s all going to change.

Cameron Herold is known around the world as the ‘business growth guru.’ He's the author of Double Double, The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs, and his newest is Meetings Suck: Turning One Of The Most Loathed Elements Of Business Into One Of The Most Valuable. I recently interviewed Cameron on the LEADx podcast to find out how to transform the worst hour of your workweek into the most valuable. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)

Kevin Kruse: What sort of meeting cadence or meeting rhythm would you recommend?

Cameron Herold: Well the reality is meetings don't stop, we start/stop at running meetings and the whole purpose for this book—and it's proving out well, companies are buying it by the hundreds, to give out to every employee to have them read it and start learning how to run and participate and be involved in great meetings. But meetings can actually be very powerful if you run them in the right way.

The way I look at all the meetings in terms of a cadence, is you have to make sure that you put all your big rocks or your big meetings into your calendar, a couple of years out and you block them in the calendar and then you build all your business around those. You need your annual strategy meeting and that needs to be a one- or a two-day meeting, usually held three months prior to the start of the physical year. You also need to have a quarterly retreat which is a half day- or a full-day meeting and that should be done two to three weeks prior to the start of each new quarter and that's when you need to press reset on the plan.

I also like having a strong finance meeting every month, where we review the balance sheet, the P and L and the pro forma cash flow statements. We'll often even go through the general ledger line by line and look for ways and expenses to cut no matter how big the company is.

Then, the next meeting you need to have are your strategy meetings. And we often forget to put time in our calendar, not for strategic planning but for strategic thinking. The reality is strategic planning–those two words shouldn't even be in the same sentence. In timing your calendar to just talk about the ‘what if’ strategy about what could be going well or could be going sideways six to twelve months out, and I like having that time blocked in the calendar.

Then you need your weekly leadership team meeting for about an hour to an hour and a half every Monday, where the leadership team shares their updates, checks through the metrics and helps unstick people and then lastly you need to have your one-on-one coaching meetings where each CEO is supporting all the VPs, kind of one-on-one coaching. And then the VPs are coaching all the managers and that trickles throughout the organization but that one-on-one coaching meeting and then lastly, your daily huddle, which is an all company, seven-minute standup meeting.

That sounds like a ton of meetings, but I outline very, very clearly how to run them and huge impact, how to make sure everyone's getting big, big value and how you can actually remove about 50% of your inter-office emails and written communication that way as well.

Kruse: How often should I be doing a one-on-one with each of my direct reports, how long do they last, and what are the kinds of things we should discuss?

Herold: Yeah, so the one-on-one meeting is critical and it should be done on a weekly basis for 30 minutes. There is no task follow-up in the meetings. It's not about following up on what's happening with the tasks. You can use software like Asana or Basecamp or Trello to be able to see what's happening with projects. The one-on-one meeting is about coaching your direct reports, so it's a balance of three things: direction, development and support. The direction is giving them direction to make sure they're working on the right stuff because at the end of the day, we only have three resources: people, time and money and you need to make sure that you're spending yours in the right way. Secondly, it's development or the skilled development that might be necessary on a project-by-project basis. So you apply situational leadership and just give them the proper skill development that they need during that meeting.

Lastly is the support, or the emotional support. It's either you hear them out or cheer them on or just be able to make sure that they have your support in helping to remove obstacles or blocks or frustrations they're having in running the business. So that coaching meeting is a really, really powerful tool. And I've been doing it for 25 years.

Kruse: Direction, development and support. I admit my one-on-ones often go through tasks, but that’s already logged into daily diaries.

Herold: That's what drives people crazy. It's like, “Why are you asking me when it's already in the log?” What they need is what you're not giving them. So if you flip the orange chart upside down, where the CEO is at the bottom supporting and holding up the VPs, who are supporting and holding up the managers, who are supporting and holding up the customers, it's like an inverted pyramid that there's not supposed to be task follow-up. It's supposed to be direction, development and support, making sure they're working on stuff that's driving towards your vivid vision, driving towards your annual and quarterly goals and helping to remove obstacles and giving the support and skills, but not saying “How's this going? How's that going?” It's like, “It's already on the tool that we're supposed to be using, go check.”

Kruse: You also mentioned ‘daily huddles.’ Could you expand on that?

Herold: Sure, so this is something we learned from a mentor of ours years ago named Verne Harnish, and it's being run by all the top companies on the planet. The idea of the daily huddle is it's an all-company standup meeting for seven minutes.

It's not run at nine o'clock or eight in the morning; we usually run ours at either 11 o'clock or two o'clock. When we built 1-800-GOT-JUNK, we ran ours from about 10:55 until 11:02 and ‘daily huddle’ was a fixed time in everyone's calendar, on their appointments forever. It was a daily standing meeting. At 10:53, an alarm will go off on your computer telling you to get up, stop your calls or whatever you're doing and walk down to the huddle area. Huddle starts exactly on time and it starts off with sharing good news.

So people share customer success stories or projects that got completed or you know any raving fan ‘thank-yous’ for people on the team. That goes for about two minutes and then you actually go through the key numbers. So the numbers for that quarterly focus, whatever your quarterly theme is, you report those numbers at daily huddle and they're put up on the whiteboard so everyone in the company can see the daily numbers and then we share, what does it all mean? We show our monthly and our yearly revenue forecast on a daily basis. So that’s basically how we are trending, and what do these numbers mean on the course of the quarter of the year.

Then one business area a day does their updates, and their updates follow the same format. What's going well, what's not going well, what we're working on and where we are stuck? So, once a day you're getting a business update from marketing and the next day IT, etc. So you're always kind of staying in that pulse of what's happening throughout the organization. Then we finish off with any missing systems or key frustrations so just “What's broken”, “What's not going well” and we don't fix or discuss those at the huddle, we just kind of say, “Hey here's something” and then someone grabs it and says “I'll take that”, and we'll solve it offline. So that daily pulse is huge, and I've got companies all over the world using it. It's very, very effective.

Kruse: I assume a key to making this work is to make sure the items that come up in the seven minutes are then handled offline, otherwise seven minutes turns into 70 minutes, right?

Herold: Exactly, it's a standup meeting, as well. I had a client over in the UK years ago and they called me, “Oh, the daily huddle's taking a half hour!” and I'm like “Tell me what you're doing.” He goes “Well, we all get together in the lunch room and everybody sits down and we pour tea.” I'm like “Dude, this is not a lunch break. This is like a powerful, quick, hard-hitting standup meeting.” So you pointed out, people go to even my YouTube channel. It has the video of daily huddle on it as well.

Kruse: You said you got the idea watching the movie ‘The Big Chill?’

Herold: Yeah, well the idea is that you've got to get out of the office. You've got to get somewhere where you're inspired and somewhere where you're kind of disconnected, and somewhere you don't need to do any hokie stupid team-building exercises. So what I like doing is renting kind of an Airbnb chalet or a cottage or a ski cabin, some kind of cool 8-10 bedroom place where everybody can have their own bedroom and where we can be meeting in our shorts and t-shirts, and our team building is making lunch and breakfast together. You can spend two days locked in this cabin, playing games, having some drinks at night and actually working through the business together and it's a great way to get off site and disconnect from the day-to-day of the office, as well.

Kruse: I'll bet that Airbnb rental is more or less the same as these conference retreat centers?

Herold: Way less than conference retreat centers and much more productive, and this works really well. I have one here that I use in Scottsdale where I have companies bring their teams out and I facilitate strategic planning and meetings for them. It's a ten-bedroom, five-kitchen hacienda that Liz Taylor and Gregory Peck lived, and it's $2,400 dollars a night. It's ridiculously cheap; it's great.

What you can use in a lot of the big cities now is something called ‘Breather Spaces’ and they're kind of like a daily Airbnb for office space and those can be great for the quarterly meetings as well.

Kruse: I always like to challenge our listeners to get just 1% better every day. Is there something you can challenge our listeners to try out today at work?

Herold: Yeah, I use an app called CommitTo3. Every single day, I commit my top three goals to another business associate of mine, Joe Polish, and Joe commits his top three goals to me. It's a $3 yearly app and you can set it up with your teams; you can set it up with a friend. It integrates with nothing. It's a perfect stand alone tool to get you to focus on the critical few things versus the important many. So right now, right in front of me, I've got my top three for the day and they nag me all day long until I get them done. But I get them done before I work on all the busy work.

Kevin Kruse is a New York Times bestselling author, host of the popular LEADx Leadership Podcast, and the CEO/Founder of LEADx.org, which provides free world-class leadership training, professional development and career advice for anyone, anywhere.

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Kevin Kruse
CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE trial of the LEADx platform at https://page.leadx.org/demo.