How to Run More Effective Meetings with Communications Expert, Andy Bounds
How much time did you spend in meetings last week? How many more will you spend this week? Do you leave those meetings feeling good about what was accomplished, or do you wish you had your time back? In this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit, Jenn DeWall welcomes back Andy Bounds.
Andy Bounds is one of Crestcom’s most impactful, funny and popular subject matter experts. He has helped thousands of Crestcom participants improve their communication skills. Andy is a communication expert who has helped some of the world’s largest and most famous companies to communicate better.
Awarded the title Britain’s Sales Trainer of the Year and described by AstraZeneca’s Global Communication Director as “a genius, whose advice can’t be ignored,” Andy’s insights and passion stem from the fact his Mother is blind. This has given him a lifetime’s experience in communicating from someone else’s point of view… a critical skill to master when persuading others!
As the episode opens, Jenn DeWall welcomes back returning guest Andy Bounds. They discuss Andy’s role as Crestcom’s Workplace Communication and Productivity subject matter expert and then introduce this episode’s topic — how to have better, more effective meetings.
Bad Meeting Habits
Jenn notes that we all know the feeling when an hour-long meeting really could have been an email! She asks Andy why we have so many bad meetings. He explains that it comes down to lousy meeting habits and being on auto-pilot. Workplaces tend to have the same recurring meetings over and over again and keep repeating the same patterns that waste time and effort.
4 (Obvious) Steps to Having a Better Meeting
Then, Andy explains that he has a four-step process for preparing a great meeting. He notes that people find the process obvious when he describes his method. Jenn agrees but talks about how things may be simple or obvious but still worth doing. Andy agrees and warns against only believing advice if it is complicated.
The PALM Method for Running a Great Meeting
Next, Andy Bounds lays out his PALM method for having an effective meeting.
P – Purpose of the Meeting
Andy suggests setting the purpose of the meeting and including that purpose in the meeting title on the calendar. He explains that when people name a meeting vaguely, it allows the meeting to go off-topic before it even begins.
He provides the example of setting a meeting with Jenn to decide the topic of the podcast episode. They didn’t call the calendar invite “Andy Bounds Meeting.” They called it an “Andy Bounds meeting to agree on the content of the podcast.” The purpose is the result you want to achieve by the end of the meeting, and when you put it in the title, everyone is on the same page.
A – The Agenda
Andy then explains that once you know the purpose of the meeting, you can set the meeting agenda. He suggests working backward from the purpose and thinking about the fewest, most essential action items achieve that purpose to create your agenda.
He provides an example of a meeting set to decide whether or not to proceed with “Project 12”. If the decision is the purpose of the meeting, then the decision is the final item on the agenda. Working backward from that, he says a first item on the agenda could be presenting reasons we should proceed with “Project 12”. The next item would be reasons not to proceed with “Project 12”. Then you have three clear agenda items to keep the meeting structure clear.
Jenn shares that she loves this method because so many meetings are held without a set agenda, which allows it to go off-topic. Andy agrees and mentions again that if you set a meeting to “Discuss Project 12” without any agenda, you will likely not reach a decision in that meeting. Instead, set a meeting to “Decide Whether or Not to Proceed with Project 12” and set the three-part agenda, and you will likely reach a conclusion.
L – Limit the Time
Next, Andy explains the importance of limiting the time of a meeting. Instead of assuming that meetings must be 30 minutes or an hour because our calendars default to that setting, think about how long the meeting should really take. If you can accomplish your purpose and agenda in 10 minutes, hold a meeting for 10 minutes. If it will take 45 minutes, set it for 45 minutes. Simply shaving 15 minutes off every meeting will save everyone time and prevent wandering from the set agenda.
He explains, “If you save 15 minutes a day, if you do that every day for a week, you’d save over an hour. All right? If you save over an hour in a week, well over the year, an hour a week is about 40 or 50 hours. If you do one hour a week for 40 or 50 weeks, that’s 40 or 50 hours over a whole year. Well, that’s a working week.
So just think about this, if you can save one hour a week, which you really come by doing this, one hour a week equates to one working week a year. If you can save two hours a week, you’ve saved yourself a fortnight that you would’ve spent in meetings that you would’ve hated.”
Jenn agrees and recalls a Harvard Business Review study that asked 1600 leaders how much time they had to focus and think each week, and most reported they rarely, if ever, got more than one to two hours of time to think. So giving people time back will allow them to think and problem-solve.
M – Minimize the Attendees
Then, Andy explains that the final letter – M is for Minimizing the number of attendees. He explains that most meetings involve too many people. He advises that the more people involved, the harder it is to reach a consensus. He recalls an old saying, “A camel is what a horse would look like if it were drawn by committee.”
He suggests identifying meeting attendees as:
- Subject Matter Experts
- Everyone Else.
He then explains that you will only need the decision makers and subject matter experts at the meeting. He notes that you will only need the subject matter experts for a limited time, so consider that when setting the agenda. He returns to the example of our meeting “To Decide Whether or Not to Proceed with Project 12”. He explains that you should invite the necessary decision-makers for the entire meeting. Then, if there are subject matter experts needed to provide context or information (i.e., legal advice or technical expertise), set 15 minutes on the agenda for their input, and then let them leave.
Andy also notes that leaders must still follow up with Everyone Else. Team members that aren’t meeting participants will still need information. If people are suddenly excluded from meetings they were once invited to, it can cause misunderstandings. He suggests explaining that the new approach to meetings is meant to save their time for more important pursuits. He also reminds the audience that they must communicate the meeting outcomes to Everyone Else after the meeting.
Simplify Update Meetings – Best, Next, Help
Then, Andy and Jenn talk about their hated boring “Update” meetings and the need to make them less painful and more interesting. Andy suggests that leaders use his Best, Next, Help framework to keep meeting sweet, short and effective!
- Each person has 30 seconds to present their Best success of the week, their Next priority, and what they need Help with.
- Leverage the “Bests”
- Align on the “Nexts”
- Address the “Helps”
- End the meeting and follow up on individual items offline.
Best – Next – Help for Better 1 on 1 Meetings
Jenn and Andy then discuss how to apply that framework to One-on-One meetings and use it to prepare for meetings. Learning to tighten up communication will make any leader more effective. Andy explains that using the method for one-on-one meetings can help leaders better understand their team. He suggests that the employee comes to the meeting with their Best, Next and Help, and the leader comes to the meeting with what they think is the employee’s Best, Next and Help. Then they can align on actions after comparing the two.
3 Easy Steps to Manage Your Calendar
After discussing how to set effective expectations for meetings, Andy gives some final advice about managing your calendar more efficiently. He outlines three steps to take today!
- Review Your Calendar – Review the previous week and see how you wasted your time.
- Look at Next Week’s Calendar – Assess next week’s meeting Using PALM and Best, Next, Help.
- Block time for essential activities on your calendar – If a task is on your calendar, you are more likely to accomplish it.
Where to Find More from Andy Bounds
Andy and Jenn close the episode and explain where you can find more from Andy Bounds:
If you want to learn more about Andy’s work as a subject matter expert for Crestcom’s Leadership Development program, visit our website at: https://crestcom.com/subject-matter-experts/
Thank you for listening to The Leadership Habit Podcast!