One of the reasons meetings become such wastes of time and money is that leaders, managers, and meeting facilitators repeatedly fail to frame the context. Another is that leaders and managers dominate the conversation and fail to assume a sincere listening posture.
Please let these reasons sink in before reading further.
Leaders hold responsibility for establishing the vision, setting direction and communicating to both the organization and its marketplace. Managers hold responsibility for implementing direction, monitoring progress and communicating across the organization.
Framing the context looks something like this:
* Here is where we are going
* Here is where we are in relationship to where we were
* Here is what we are working on now
* Here is what comes next
The mental discipline to follow this outline, repeatedly, creates alignment for the work about to take place. It forces a consistent stream of communication with a forward look and reinforces the leader/manager role. Most of all they can begin listening. It is a bad habit to assume that team members carry the context around if company leaders and managers are not doing so.
After framing the context, which sets boundaries for the conversation, leaders, managers, and facilitators need to absorb what can be learned from everyone in the room, helping to make it safe for team members to participate and their counsel to be valued. Active, silent listening is truly golden. The next times to speak are to invite others to speak who have not yet brought input, to ask clarifying questions, and to thank people for their contribution—all before offering any direct response or feedback.
Hard and good work.
If you wish to dig more deeply into building these skills, you might consider the book Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to make groups smarter, by Sunstein and Hastie.
You might also want to train or coach yourself and others on facilitating meetings so that they add value rather than drain time and money. This is often best learned by conducting real business during the training. I recently began providing this training to CEO peer-advising groups across the country as another venue for this training.
If context framing and active listening is something you have no intention of doing, then you can gain more integrity by acknowledging that you prefer to run your organization as a dictatorship. You can hold all employee assemblies to tell everyone to jump so they can cheer the response question in unison “how high?”
Yuk, right? And yet, the dictator approach will be more effective and have less dissonance and resource drain than the context deficient, everyone talking over the top of each other (or not offering what they know) types of meetings that plague our organizations and make our mission statements laughable.