From start to end I wished it to end
This week I had a meeting. From start to end I wished it to end. It was a mess.
A few weeks ago, a manager reached out to me - let’s call her Carla. Carla seeks high-potentials to set up her core team as she is about to build a new, fast-growing, and impactful business unit.
Even though I’ve different plans and love my job, I was curious. So, I jumped on a virtual meeting with her.
After Carla came 5 minutes late, we had some smalltalk. Wasn’t too bad. She just confused where I’m currently living.
Then, I asked her whether she could give me a sense of what to expect in this meeting. Her response was like … well … she read out loud the message she initially sent.
So, I clarified why I was asking. I wanted to better understand the expectation of this meeting and what we want to accomplish today.
Bingo! Or not? Carla pitched me the job role - someone for business development, a high-potential with an entrepreneurial mindset. Hands-on, you know?
Great! Sounds kinda like a match. To better understand, what she expects and understands of a high potential, I asked her what skills she is seeking in this person.
I was really looking forward to her answer, but no. Carla played the UNO reverse card and asked me what skills I could bring to the table.
Well, I thought, didn’t you reach out to me because you knew my background? But yeah, I gave it a try: Experienced strategy consultant, analytics, communication, execution, resilience, ownership, …
I followed up my pitch with the question of whether there was a match with what she was seeking and whether she could illustrate what career opportunities this role could offer.
Once again, I received an answer I didn’t ask for - a high-level and inconcrete response.
The conversation went on like this. The quality of the responses were as if I have given them by myself.
This 20 minutes meeting casts a negative shadow over Carla and her employer. I wouldn’t want to work in a team with this little clarity. This meeting felt unprepared and thus disrespectful of my time.
I’m grateful for the experience, though. I once again learned the importance of meeting preparation. If Carla had spent 5 minutes screening my profile again, writing down 3 questions about me, and thinking about a potential outcome, this story would’ve been the opposite.
Next week, I will start working on a new consulting project. I aim to have even better meetings with my colleagues and clients. This will allow us to create better results faster and build deeper relationships.
Preparation is key. But on a stressful working day, there’s not much time to prepare every meeting to detail. To balance this tradeoff, I developed a meeting excellence routine. In today’s article, I will write about what this routine looks like and how to apply it.
Prepare every meeting
First of all, you should develop a routine to prepare for every meeting. Thereby, a meeting could be any encounter with another person (or group of people) at a pre-determined time and location.
Too often, we try to develop a new routine and fail because we aim for 90%, 95%, or 99%. Aiming for 100%, though, is significantly easier. There’s no excuse. No matter how seemingly unimportant, well-established the relationship, or clear the goal of the meeting is.
Once you allow yourself exceptions to the rule, it’s more difficult to be disciplined. You cannot draw a clear line. So, prepare for every meeting.
Intro, content, action items
Each meeting has 3 parts:
Intro: Why do we meet? What’s the objective of this meeting?
Content: What are the 3 main things we will be talking about? What’s the ideal outcome?
Action items: What are potential follow-up to-dos?
Taking 3-5 minutes before a meeting to think through these 3 parts will massively enhance the effectiveness of every meeting.
It’s rather the process not the outcome of this meeting preparation routine that matters, though. Let me give you an example by illustrating how I would’ve prepared if I was Carla:
Intro: I want to introduce this position to David, get to know him as a person (cultural fit), and align on the next steps to fill this position
I will talk about the job requirements and why I approached him as a potential candidate
I will ask him about his motivation to jump on a call and get to know him better as a person. I will ask him these 3 cultural fit questions I will also ask the other potential candidates to have comparable results. And I want to know about the questions he has, e.g., what we are trying to do, why we do it, and what our working culture is
I will paint how the process could look like if there’s a fit, e.g., when I will message him, when we will talk again, and what will be the content of the next conversation
Obtain and provide feedback on the outcome of this meeting
Potentially, schedule the next conversation
Follow up on questions I couldn’t answer yet
Just thinking through these questions is immensely valuable. You don’t even have to write them down. However, particularly in meetings with clients, senior managers, or difficult conversations (e.g., when you have to say no), I recommend writing down the keywords of intro, content, and action items.
In my next consulting project, I will apply this routine for every meeting. In my previous projects, it worked insanely well, but I wasn’t determined to apply it for every meeting - particularly internal or informal meetings with teammates.
Based on my learnings in the next few weeks, I will give you an update. Until then, try it out for yourself - whether with your colleagues, study mates, friends, or family. And let me know the results.
If you already use such a preparation routine, please write me a message and tell me about it. Would be curious to exchange experiences!
All the best to you and yours,