Leaders as Influencers: On Meetings and Culture

We are about to check point on an experiment to create more mindfulness around meetings. Originally billed as an exercise of going on a “meeting diet” through a defined blackout period, it morphed into a company wide introspection on the use of people’s time. It had a profound effect on the meetings I facilitated and attended. The immediate value was explicit permission to question agendas and decline meetings where I did not add value or find them helpful.

In the survey I came to the question “What would need to be put in place, or need to happen, in order to continue to benefit from this?”. As I wrote my response I could tell the book Reinventing Organzations has had an impact on how I think about leading by example in all aspects of the organization:

As leaders the way you show up and engage, how you facilitate what good meetings look like will determine to a large extent how others continue this practice of mindful meetings. For better or worse, Jeff Bezos sets the tone at Amazon, Bill Gates did the same at Microsoft, and I suspect Steve Jobs did as well at Apple. Leaders determine the boundaries of culture for the organization underneath them.

If you choose to continue to be mindful of your own meeting habits by:

  1. accepting the meeting only when there is a clear purpose,
  2. ensuring that purpose plays out with an agenda,
  3. arming people with structured decision making techniques to bias us towards learning and action through experimentation and feedback,
  4. respecting your own time and space as well as others,
  5. helping others check their ego at the door, and
  6. being the change you want to see

Then we will continue to benefit by being an organization who gets stuff done, not being overly focused on talking about what could be done. Talk is cheap, the market pays the big dollars for outcomes.

I am pretty excited about these types of activities. Active experimentation that shape our future helps us reach the next level of awesomeness. They will not always bear fruit, but when they do they can pay off in spades.