Avoiding Meeting Stew

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Our annual leadership retreat is coming up in May.  I love these events; a chance to gather the remotely-based team for what is typically the only time we have everyone together in the same space.  Planning for these events is always an interesting challenge; finding that balance between work and play. Between review and planning.  Between vision and strategy; strategy and tactics.

In my preparations for the upcoming event, I was reminded of the following authors who have each provided unique context and insight on the subject of meetings:

In Death By Meeting, Patrick Lencioni gives us some great guidance on how to structure team conversations to avoid “meeting stew”, where all the points I’ve mentioned above run together.

Al Pittampalli offers some refreshingly alternative suggestions on maximizing the impact of a “modern meeting” in Read This Before Our Next Meeting.

Bill Stadick’s summary of Meetings Matter zeroes in on Paul Axtell‘s message that meetings are ultimately about conversations and relationships, and that knowing which conversation we’re trying to have (and who we’re having it with) can save a lot of time and make things more enjoyable.

In my recent conversation with Patrick Thean he reiterated the goal – give each meeting its appropriate focus; be clear on the singular goal, and follow a publicly acknowledged structure.

David Allen (famous for Getting Things Done) has a nice model and analogy for thinking about your life and/or business in terms of “the six horizons of focus”; ranging from runway (Tasks) to 50,000 feet (Purpose).

I’m cobbling a few ideas from each as I build out the agenda and structure for the offsite.  One of the big themes I was reminded of in revisiting these summaries and interviews is that the time we have together is best spent in dialogue; in debate and discussion, not in sharing reports on departmental activity.  The data and information needs to be shared in advance.  The team should come prepared, ready to engage.  If we only have 72 hours together each year, we certainly want to make them count.

Any tips on maximizing the impact of a Leadership offsite?  

Any pitfalls you’ve experienced in the past?

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