Construction Leadership Insights

A Simple Way to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Company Meetings

How many times have turned on your computer to send an urgent email, and been so frustrated as you wait for it to boot up, you picked up your smart phone to write the email? One of the reasons computers (particularly Windows PCs) are so slow is because they are stuffed with a bunch of unnecessary third-party software called bloatware. To give your computer’s performance a boost, remove the bloat.

In the same way excess software slows your computer down, and drives you crazy, the company meetings that you lead have too much information stuffed into them, and it drives your people crazy. To run efficient and effective meetings, that engages your team and they look forward to attending, remove the information bloat.

In this article we’ll discuss three things:

  1. How information bloat happens,
  2. Why too much information is bad,
  3. How to improve your meetings by limiting the information you share, and structuring the meeting to maximize participation.

First let’s take a look at how bloat happens.

What are the core issues in your business that you need to figure out?
Inefficiencies and lack of effectiveness exist in every construction business. There are always opportunities for improvement. Let’s just take one issue as an example: Difficult Conversations

How comfortable are your junior PEs and PMs with the conflict that occurs around a project? When an issue comes up, do they default to sending “CYA” emails? Or, do they pick up the phone, or drive out to the job site and go “belly to belly” with an owner or project partner?  If your team struggles with having difficult conversations, it’s likely that they need training on: preparation prior to the conversation, engagement during the conversation, and follow up after the conversation.

As you think about the problems, you start googling.
All of sudden you have a huge quantity of content to share about improving conversations. You get excited, schedule a meeting to discuss it with your team, and make the mistake of trying to stuff all the information into one session. That leads us to the second part of the article: Why too much information is bad

Have you ever noticed that when you are pumped up about a topic, how quickly the time goes?
You start the meeting, and it seems that just as you get warmed up, you glance up at the clock, and you’ve got 20 minutes left. You start to speed up the pace of your presentation. PowerPoint slides whiz by and words spill out as you try and finish the meeting on time. The attendees make a valiant effort to keep up, but they quickly lose heart, and their attention wanders.  After the meeting you ask a couple of people what they learned. They mumble something vague, and it’s clear they missed what you were trying to communicate.

How can you avoid this frantic pace and make the most of your time and your people’s attention? Let’s look at the last point of the article: How to improve your meetings by limiting the information you share, and structuring the meeting to maximize participation.

Your goal isn’t to fill the time. It’s to deliver maximum value
Have someone else in your company look at your content prior to the meeting and give you input on what to cut out. You could probably delete 80% of the information, and if you structure the meeting correctly, you’ll have still have plenty of content to fill the time.

Once you’ve reduced the amount of content make sure you structure it correctly. The best way to do this is to front load the critical information. Ask yourself: “What is are the top 3 items we must cover in the meeting?” List those items, and then force rank them from most to least important. Doing this will give you the confidence that the most important information is covered, even if you don’t get to everything on the agenda.

Having less information opens up time for the attendees to participate.
Make this happen by asking good quality questions about the topic you are covering. Going back to the example of having difficult conversations, here are some you could ask:

  1. What are the biggest challenges you have with conflict?
  2. In what specific ways can we improve the quality of our conversations?
  3. When is it appropriate to send an email, and when should you pick up the phone?

Have the attendees spend time individually thinking and writing down answers to the questions. Then have them discuss their answers in small groups of 3-5. Finally have each small group report back to the whole meeting. If you ask good questions you’ll get plenty of information to discuss, and you’ll ensure that your people stay engaged.

Bottom Line: Don’t stuff your presentation with too much information.
Time and people’s attention spans are limited. When you’re preparing for a meeting don’t overprepare with too much content. Make a commitment to minimize the quantity of information and focus on crafting great questions around the meeting topic so you maximize attendee participation. When in doubt remember how frustrating a slow computer is. Remove the bloat.

Would you like further insight into how to run effective meetings?
I’ve distilled my experience running executive meetings for construction companies into a short e-book: Kick-Ass Meetings

If you’d like to learn how to run highly effective meetings, click this link and download your FREE copy. I think you’ll find it very useful.