Last week, while I was browsing through the Internet, I bumped into an awesome article about Urban Airship’s CEO meeting rules, and I thought it was more than worth it to share it and spread the message. I am a firm believer that, more often than not, whenever companies have a list of strict rules for something (unless, of course, it’s something that really needs rules like emergency exits), they are useless and senseless. I really value the ability to stay flexible, understand the differences among the people you work with, and being able to adapt your strategy to different scenarios, so a list of strict rules for stuff that didn’t really require them seemed like something that made no sense at all to me. But facing this list, I stand corrected.
Scott Kvetton was the CEO of Urban Airship, a leading mobile engagement platform for enterprises, for 5 years from 2009 until 2014. And even though Urban Airship itself was a pretty impressive company, what striked me the most was Scott’s way of conducting it. Instead of going for a traditional set of rules, Scott chose to take down the barriers and push the limits a little by instauring his very own way of managing office meetings, and today we’ll dive into the awesome rules he settled, and the benefits that they can cause in a work environment. So let’s jump right in, shall we?
Do we really need to meet?
Over these past two pandemic years, if I had received a dollar for every meeting I had that could have been an email, I’d probably be rich right now. This rule is one of my particular favorites because it really captures that feeling. Companies like to do meetings because it makes them feel like they are working, when most times they really aren’t, and that meeting could have been a 3‑sentence-long email. So, in order to not squeeze the life and energy out of your coworkers, please make sure your meetings are really necessary.
Schedule a start, not an end to your meeting – it’s over when it’s over, even if that’s just 5 minutes.
Meetings can turn out to be much longer than expected, either because your team got crazy inspired or because there happened to be many more things to discuss than you thought, and it’s not good to be running on the clock and rushing everything in order to be on time. On the other hand, a meeting that you thought could take an hour, may end up lasting twenty minutes, and it’s also not good to just extend it for no reason and waste everyone’s time. When it comes to meetings, it’s really much better to set the start time, and see how it goes. If it has to take three hours that’s fine (as long as you give your team a reasonable break), and if it takes ten minutes that’s fine too.
Be on time!
This is not really such an innovative rule, but I find it funny that we still have to ask for this. Unless you had an emergency, then what can you possibly be doing that will jeopardize your punctuality to an office meeting? This rule doesn’t require much more development, it really is what it is, and it’s much more practical than it is innovative. So, please, next time you have a meeting, be on time!
No multi-tasking … no device usage unless necessary for meeting
Huge fan of this rule! It really is so simple yet so effective. You are in a meeting, you have to be here in mind, body (unless it’s virtual) and soul, no matter how long your to-do list. Leave your phone, laptops, and every other device outside the meeting room, and make sure that you really are in your meeting, participating, and paying the attention that it requires. No thinking about other stuff, no working on other stuff, no texting other people. Unless, of course, this is necessary for the meeting.
If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave
A little harsh, ain’t it Scott? But it still makes a lot of sense. Sometimes you are invited to a meeting because you are on the team involved in the subject, but you really have nothing to do with, and have nothing to add, and nothing to learn from it. So, if you are completely sure that there’s nothing you can get out of the meeting you are in, and that you can be getting other stuff done, then just go ahead and leave. In this case, it’s important that the person conducting the meeting doesn’t get offended if someone does decide to leave.
Meetings are not for information sharing – that should be done before the meeting via email and/or agenda
When I was in college, I had a professor who, from the very first class, warned us to always show to class having read whatever that class required because the class was not meant to just expose what we could get from a book, but for discussing it, digging deeper, and asking questions about it instead. The same thing happens with meetings, if you’ll be, for example, discussing the reason why numbers have gone down in the past few months, you won’t spend half of the meeting showing your coworkers charts and graphics with the numbers from the quarter because they should show up already knowing about them. This will lead to having much more productive, enriching, and beneficial meetings, and to avoid wasting time.
Who really needs to be at this meeting?
Related to the “just leave” rule, we have another one for managers to really spend time figuring out who should be attending the meeting and who shouldn’t. This is really important to not waste other people’s time, and to not have random people who can’t contribute in any way and are just standing in the way of a productive meeting. So, before calling in for a meeting, take a seat and figure out the key people who should be in it, and then call them, and them only.
Agree to action items, if any, at the conclusion of the meeting
There’s nothing more terrible in the workplace than being three hours discussing something, and then leaving the room with absolutely zero conclusions nor action plans whatsoever. To avoid that scenario, at the end of the meeting, you and your team should always take the time to agree on and write down which will be the next steps to take regarding the meeting’s topic. Just by doing that, you can make sure the meeting was actually worth it and that what you discussed won’t slip through your fingers.
Don’t feel bad about calling people out on any of the above; it’s the right thing to do.
To conclude, Scott insists that you let your team and coworkers know when they are not sticking to the rules, and that you make sure that they start doing so. Even if it requires calling them out, as long as you do it respectfully, you have to make sure everyone is contributing to the establishment of these rules in order to make them work. So, if you feel like one of your employees is not, then don’t hesitate in making the first step in order to figure out what’s happening, and how to solve it.