Why Meetings Really Do Make a Difference
It’s easy to hate on meetings. They can turn so easily into exercises of futility as you and your team spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to get on the same page. Sometimes it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere at all, and precious hours of productivity evaporate into thin air. But meetings aren’t simply about planning and organizing work. They actualize the most essential element of your business: its culture.
In truth, we have every reason to love meetings. It’s bad meetings we can’t stand. Those soul-sucking exercises where it feels like everyone is talking in endless circles. Good meetings, on the other hand, energize everyone in the room and get them excited about returning to their work.
So then, the obvious question to ask is how you make all your meetings good, right?
Maybe you can improve every meeting by establishing a clear direction, ensuring everyone is prepared in advance, or setting rigorous time limits. Those are very typical examples of how you can make your meetings way more efficient and productive. But the truth is that they completely miss the point of why meetings are so important.
Meetings aren’t about maximum operational efficiency. Trying to hack them into that shape only diverts them further from their true purpose, and just pushes them closer to that unproductive disaster that we so desperately want to avoid.
The true purpose of meetings has very little to do with efficiency. Instead, they are where you make the culture and the story of your business a real thing.
We love to talk about culture in the abstract. So much so that it can sometimes feel like something the company is just aspiring to, rather than actually being in the day-to-day. Meetings are the stomping ground to turn all those ephemeral concepts into something proven and real.
Humans love stories, and whenever we get together — even if it’s just for operational realignment — we tell stories together. We weave context into even the most basic of interactions.
That contextualization is where the real magic happens with meetings. When the team is siloed in their individual duties and grinding away at everyday tasks, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of the purpose that’s driving it all. When your team focuses on the mundane only, their place in that greater story ceases to exist.
Meetings are where you make that story palpable again. They’re where you show every member of your team that their work really does matter. They’re where you translate the originating myths that made your company what it is today. Above all, they’re where you turn a group of workers into a community united by common purpose.
Now more than ever, people work for that sense of purpose. It’s how you keep your team onboard, and it's the key to unlocking their potential. If your team is genuinely tapped into that greater ambition then they will work harder and stronger than ever.
Meetings are the place to reaffirm all of that. It doesn’t even take much from you as a leader to make it so. Meetings — these gatherings of people — naturally create the kinds of stories you want told. All you have to do is make the space for it.
It can be hard to put your faith in that kind of effect when you’re paying with precious man hours. It may seem like your startup simply can’t afford any wasted time, but if meetings mean empowering and exciting every single person on your team then they’re worth any price.