We Can Do Better Than 'Fine"

Let’s be honest. Whether it’s how your kid’s first day of school went or a descriptor of your most recent date, “fine” is a pretty low bar.

When it comes to our professional lives, “fine” is the standard. How was that Monday morning check-in where you waited 15 of the 30 minutes for everyone to filter in? Fine. What about the 90-minute strategy brainstorm no one managed that ended with zero new strategies? Fine.

Knowledge workers spend more than 25 percent of their workweek in meetings. For executives, this jumps to more than half. Based on my experience, these are conservative estimates. And when my clients tell me their meetings are “fine,” I’ve come to learn that a) the standard is really low and b) everyone knows what they’re supposed to do to make them better, they just don’t.

Here are three ways to start getting more out of your meetings today:

Give your meeting a purpose

How many meetings have you attended where you spent the bulk of the time wondering – or debating – what you’re trying to accomplish? Or worse, left the meeting without ever figuring it out? Prevent aimless meetings by including a specific purpose statement in the subject line of your meeting invite. By leading with why you’re having the meeting, e.g. “Finalize 2023 marketing budget,” your attendees are much more likely to come prepared.

Reiterate the purpose at the very beginning of the meeting to make sure everyone is clear on the goal. The good news is that when you anchor your meeting on a goal, once it’s achieved, the meeting is over – even if there are still minutes on the meeting clock.

And a captain

Remember that 90-minute brainstorm that went nowhere? Chances are it lacked a strong facilitator. As a meeting leader, it’s your job to ensure that your meeting delivers on its purpose. In practice, this looks like inviting in quieter voices, leveraging the experts in the room, ensuring off-topic questions and comments make their way onto a “for later” list, and monitoring your own airtime. This is significantly easier with a smaller group, so keep your invite list to the fewest number of attendees possible.

And some closure

To make meetings matter, you have to close strong. Before you leave the room, recap any decisions made, and outline next steps noting the person responsible and timing. So, “Monica will send around a list of the tactics we agreed upon with updated pricing by EOD Friday, and Juan will submit the new budget on Tuesday.” To be sure nothing is lost – and to keep anyone who missed the meeting in the loop – share a written recap via email or your team’s communication platform.

Yes, these steps require more time and effort. But a bit of effort up front can save a lot of wasted time on the back end. And getting some time back? That’s totally fine.