“To move faster, pulse faster. At the heart of a team’s performance is a rhythm of well-run daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings. These meetings bring focus and alignment, provide an opportunity to solve problems more quickly and ultimately save time. They also address the #1 challenge people face when they work together: communications.”
‘The Meeting Rhythm’ is a chapter in Scaling Up: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0 dedicated solely to the importance of meetings in relation to developing an effective work culture that brings about real results on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Meetings are the environment in which values align, goals are established, motivation is provided, challenges are dealt with and people work together. However, sporadic and infrequent meetings tear away at each of these positive attributes, resulting in a weak company culture and deterioration in progress. At Beyond, we actively practice Scaling Up’s method of how to maintain the heartbeat of the organisation through effective meetings and we have found it highly successful.
It’s all about rhythm
As we all know, an organisation is made up of people. But what makes each individual think like an organisation? In Scaling Up, the Ritz-Carlton and Towne Park line-up is used as an example of how one company manages this. Every morning at the Ritz-Carlton, the transition from home to work is acknowledged with a daily huddle, lasting 15 minutes, to warm-up employees before they start their shift. In this interim, the values of the company are reaffirmed and employees begin work on the right foot – or beat – no matter what is occurring in their own personal lives. Keeping an organisation of unique and complex individuals all on the correct beat requires a degree of maintenance, which is why meetings are so powerful when used effectively.
Not all communication is valuable
The offshoot of infrequent meetings is ineffective communication. Without the structured and transparent environment a meeting, with all of the appropriate individuals present, offers, communication is instead reliant on casual encounters. Whether it is by the printer, the water cooler, the vending machine or during after work drinks, important decisions and the relaying of influential information is, in this case, conducted on an ad-hoc basis. On the other hand, meetings, if they are regularly kept and efficiently run, make for valuable communication.
When a leader gathers his/her team for a meeting, team attributes become apparent, such as:
- Peer pressure
- Collective Intelligence
- Clear communication
These are powerful tools for leaders who want to bring out the best performance of their team. One-on-one meetings are weaker in this respect as the blame game and private negotiations can take precedence here. Open and transparent team meetings stop this from occurring, and drive more productive communication. Additionally, when the team is gathered together a message can be relayed one time and everyone has received it, rather than having to go around informing everyone individually or double-checking that they received that email.
How often should you be holding meetings?
Meetings are the drumbeat of your company, “a rhythm of communication that drives alignment throughout the organisation.” It follows, that when the organisation is aligned goals are easier to achieve. Scaling Up recommends meetings for every significant passing of work time, therefore daily meetings, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual. The idea is that these meetings are so ingrained in the calendar of the organisation that they do not take time to schedule and are run efficiently.
This is when the team stands facing each other for strictly 5-15 minutes, letting everyone speak to the following agenda:
- What’s up (in the next 24 hours)?
- What are the daily metrics?
- Where are you stuck?
Each item should be limited to 5 minutes maximum. Assign someone who is a disciplined time-keeper to keep the meeting on track with a stopwatch. The key to the daily huddle is communicating is a highly specific manner, rather than letting details get lost in ambiguity. The more detail included the more meaningful it is to everyone else, therefore, include times, dates, people’s names, places, numbers, concerns, goals. When listening to another team member share their “stuck” it is important to not get too bogged down in problem-solving. If someone can offer guidance in one sentence then they should, however, if it requires deeper analysis then this conversation should be had after the meeting. The golden rule: the daily huddle should always be kept short. At Beyond, we huddle every morning and we feel it really sets us off on the right track for the day as well as for the subsequent week and month. After all, each short-term goal is a deliverable for the overall business strategy. Download our daily huddle cheatsheet to help you run a better huddle!
Daily huddles keep everyone informed, so the weekly meeting should not be used as an updating session. Instead, this is a 30-90 minute meeting to gather your team’s collective intelligence to tackle one or two important topics, set priorities and review metrics and customer feedback. Ideally, the weekly meeting is a series of functional meetings held with different departments to focus on their wider challenges and opportunities. With individuals from different departments sharing the same space, cross-functional concerns can be highlighted and addressed on a week-by-week basis. Download our weekly meeting cheatsheet to help you run a more productive meeting!
This is a half-day or one-day monthly management meeting that should include senior, middle and frontline managers. The focus should not be on reports, but rather it should be a day of instilling DNA – the organisation’s values, knowledge and approach – from the top down. This is a time for learning and development, where one or two big issues can be dealt with directly. At the monthly meeting, the strategic direction of the organisation should be made clear and those in supervisory positions should be kept up-to-date on important issues.
Quarterly and annual meetings
These meetings are about long-term priorities and the updating of growth tools for leaders. This should be an offsite one to three-day meeting in which the next quarter/annual theme is established with a clearly defined strategic direction. At Beyond, we have integrated this practice into our organisation and found that we tackle our challenges more efficiently and notice opportunities quicker as a result. With this fluid stream of clear communication being reaffirmed day after day, week after week, everyone in the organisation is kept up-to-date and empowered with valuable information. With every single individual on the team working to the same beat, goals are more easily attained and day-to-day activities are always aligned with our overall strategy.
8 bonus takeaways from Scaling Up for more effective meetings
- “Have more people in fewer meetings, rather than fewer people in more meetings”.
- Use a stopwatch to regulate meetings. If meetings continuously go overtime, people will begin to resent them.
- Where possible, choose face-to-face meetings over video conferencing
- Avoid micromanagement during daily huddle – “In general, looking forward is great management; looking backwards is micromanagement”.
- Meetings should take no time to organise because they occur consistently and regularly.
- “…this rhythm of meetings shouldn’t require more than 10% of a standard 40-, 50-, or 60-hour workweek for the senior leadership; 5% to 7% for middle managers and 3% for frontline staff.”
- What rate is your organisation growing at? Your meeting rhythm should reflect this. If you are growing at a very fast rate, say 20-100% a quarter, then each quarter is the same as a year for you.
- Walk-and-Talks were a favourite way to induce problem-solving for Steve Jobs. Simply walking and talking through an issue is a scientifically proven way to calm the brain to a more focused and productive state.