To Meet or not to Meet?

That indeed is, or should be, the question that is asked when we call a meeting whether it is a face -to -face meeting or phone or video conferencing.

What frequently happens is that there is a topic that is top of some individuals’ minds, perhaps for instance, a new marketing strategy. And since all good leaders know the importance of communication they call a meeting. But often it is called before the actual objective of the meeting has been carefully thought through and certainly before an agenda is built.

An objective is not only what will be addressed in the meeting but also why or specifically what aspect of it.

It isn’t sufficient to think, “We need to have a meeting to discuss the new marketing strategy.” The why might be “to ensure we haven’t missed anything” ,” to ensure IT can handle their part” , ”to get stakeholders on board” or dozens of other possibilities. ( A crystal clear meeting objective is essential for many reasons beyond this first meeting step  but we will get into that another time.)

A crystal clear objective allows you to make the “to meet or not to meet” decision effectively. The main question to ask yourself is “Do we need to meet in order to accomplish this?” Consider the usual benefits of coming together in a well run meeting:

  • Getting input. In order to achieve your objective can you effectively gather input without meeting? Will meeting together encourage more input or better quality input?
  • Ensuring understanding. If you simply send out the information, how confident are you that it will be carefully read? Is it important to provide the opportunity for asking clarifying questions? Are those questions more likely to be asked when they are invited in a meeting?
  • Getting buy-in, building enthusiasm. If this is critical to your objective it is more likely you will achieve it by bringing people together.



The other factor to include in the mix when considering each of the above is how high a priority and /or how sensitive the topic and objective are. If they rank high than a meeting is usually called for, however, the caveat is that the meeting must have a strong facilitator or people could leave even less committed to whatever is being discussed.

A final aspect of the “to meet or not to meet” question is “to meet or not to meet with whom?” Again the clear objective is critical. Most important, who needs to be there in order to achieve the objective? There are times when someone is there for other reasons whether political or just keeping people well informed? But having people there who feel they have no purpose in being there just drains energy from the meeting and gives your meetings a bad name.

Considering these things not only allows you to decide if a meeting is the most effective and productive way  to achieve whatever you need to accomplish, but also creates a focus that will lead to a much more effective meeting. People will know that when they attend one of your meetings that their time will be well spent.


About the author:

Leslie Bendaly is recognized as a leading thinker and practitioner in the areas of organizational leadership, teamwork and change.

She is the founding partner of Kinect Inc. and author of several books on leadership including onStrength in Numbers, Winner Instinct, Organization 2005, Games Teams Play and Leadership on the Run. Leslie co-authored her latest book, Improving Healthcare Team Performance: The 7 Requirements for Excellence in Patient Care with Nicole Bendaly.

Her models, tools and books are used in organizations worldwide and her books have been selected as mandatory reading for MBA and other postgraduate programs in both the U.S.A. and Canada.

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