Set Five Simple Rules for Better Meeting Discipline

Meetings are at the heart of effective organizations. Each meeting is an opportunity to clarify issues, set direction, sharpen focus, create alignment, and move ambitions forward. We have to change the way we think about meetings—the way we design and lead them and, most importantly, how we manage what happens between meetings. – Paul Axtell

Meetings are the most common shared behavior across a team and the organization at large. Because meetings happen so frequently, bad habits can quickly become institutionalized, for example: if every meeting starts late, then there's no need to show up on time. Moreover, because meetings happen so frequently, a culture of late, undisciplined meetings can have an enormous cost in terms of lost time, productivity, and focus.

If you find that your team has slipped into some bad meeting habits, ask your team if they're open to trying these rules for just one week. If you get a majority of positive responses, post these rules in your meeting rooms and begin following them for yourself and encourage others to do so too. After the week is up, collect feedback from your team and decide what rules to add, subtract, or amend.

Set Five Meeting Ground Rules

  1. No confusion. If you called the meeting, be on time and ready to facilitate the meeting.
  2. No excuses. If you can’t make the meeting, the meeting will happen without you. Understand that you may be assigned work in your absence.
  3. No latecomers. If you’re going to be more than 5 minutes late, don’t come to the meeting.
  4. No distractions. If you’re going to spend the meeting distracted with a device, don’t come to the meeting.
  5. No do-overs. Don’t skip a meeting and then hold another meeting to discuss what happened in the meeting.

Takeaway: Company culture can become more lax over time, so refreshing rules around meetings can serve as a practical reminder to stay focused and respect your colleagues' time.

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