How to Cultivate Engaged Employees – 4th in a series of 6 related Posts

The Road to Hell
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Guideline #4 – Focus the Agenda

Notes HBR author Charalambos Vlachoutsicos, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’ve often seen managers who willingly invite disagreement do it in an undisciplined way, especially in meetings where all ideas are on the table. The trouble is that the more you put on the agenda, the less time each person has to talk, unless your meeting runs for a long time. If you set a time limit, you end up racing through parts of the agenda, which causes consternation.”

Well, I agree and I disagree.

Some meetings should be short and to the point. Others should be more open ended to allow for fuller discussion, disagreement and clarification. The key is know in advance what kind of meeting you’re having and to make sure everyone else does too!

For example, we do limit our weekly huddle meetings to 15 minutes (see chapter 46, Communicate Early and Often in my book, Building a Winning Business) and we only include three items on the agenda: big updates, stuck items and our financial numbers. Because the purpose of these meetings is to share big news and quickly solve small problems before they become big ones, I often set the tone by acknowledging that “I don’t have any group-worthy updates. Who’s next?”

Bigger issues get tabled to our monthly “workout” meeting. I’m not shy about letting someone know in a huddle if the issue they’re raising needs to wait for the next workout.

In addition, every quarter we take time at a workout meeting to recap how we’re doing with our strategic objectives (which are decided at the annual two-day offsite—see previous post) and to decide on any necessary mid-year adjustments.

This cascade approach allows us to keep in sync on the day-to-day major updates and financial performance indicators, while making sure bigger issues don’t get lost or glossed over in the daily hub-bub. Just as important, we are careful to keep our eye on the big picture to ensure that the overall objectives are on track too.