To Meet Or Not To Meet

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I've lost count of the times I've seen different variations of the meme floating around the internet that says, "another meeting that could have been an e-mail," usually followed by a hashtag acronym that stands for choice words of frustration.

My recent partnership with Lori Greiner has made me more aware of the need for brief, straight-to-the-point, well-prepared meetings. To maximize our time together and respect her and her team's busy schedules, I am diligent about my meeting preparation, ensuring that I have everything in order and ready to go before each Zoom call. But was I committed to that same level of preparedness when it came to meetings with my teams? Not quite. And it got me thinking.

As a general rule, employees hate meetings because a meeting where everything is relevant to everyone and all parties are energized and engaged is almost non-existent. So what could I do, and how can we as leaders make it better? Here are some ideas.

I believe the first and best way to make meetings work is to have fewer of them - way fewer. If it can be a phone call or an e-mail, let it be just that. But when a meeting must be held, here are some guidelines to avoid an unproductive snooze-fest:

  • HAVE A PLAN. Prepare an agenda and share it with the group well beforehand so they can be as prepared as possible regarding their responsibilities. Include a timeframe with a hard stop to show you understand that your employees are busy and that you respect their time and schedules. This seems like a no-brainer, but how many meetings have you been a part of that had no set plan and seemed to drone on forever.

 

  • DON'T WASTE TIME. Don't allow a single issue (or person) to dominate the conversation. When something comes up that clearly won't be solved in the meeting time frame, shut it down and schedule a time to meet again with only the people involved. Tactfully temper anyone who might like to hear themselves talk a little too much as well. You'll be a hero to the rest of the team.

 

  • READ THE ROOM. A good leader will sense tension, boredom, frustration, etc. Has someone been silent the whole time? Draw them out with a question, and you may find that something is bothering them. It's always easier at the moment to avoid these things but don't. Dig deeper into whatever is bubbling under the surface and allow your employees to speak freely but respectfully. Put out the small fires or face the raging inferno and eventual resignations later. Those really are your only two choices, so choose wisely.

 

  • ZOOM WITH A VIEW. Virtual meetings have become a norm, with more and more people continuing to work from home post-pandemic. And it's become popular for participants to join with "audio-only." No need for people to change out of their pajamas, fix their hair or makeup, etc. But discourage this. It's no secret that the temptation to check out and multi-task during an audio-only virtual meeting is high. Set the expectation that you want your team to be as together and focused as possible, which means you expect to see their faces. Let them know that in return, they can expect that this meeting will not be a waste of their time. Both are fair and reasonable.

 

  • HAVE FUN. There are lots of ways to do this. Maybe start by having your team share the craziest customer service call or social comment you got that week. Or include food. Food is always a good idea. The bottom line is to create a relaxed environment for a more open and enjoyable experience. Some meetings require a more formal tone, but most don't, so loosen up!

And if you genuinely want to have fewer meetings, there is a way. This isn't a popular solution among busy leaders with schedules, nerves, and patience stretched thin, but it's a wise long-term one that will lead to much greater organizational health; spend more one-on-one time with your key people. This includes in-person, phone calls, e-mails, etc.

Model good communication from the top down. Genuinely listen, care, cast vision, empower, and watch your core team come alive and spread that passion and positivity as they communicate to their teams and others around them. Invest in and value your people. If you do this, everyone, including you, will be much happier, more productive, and way less likely to suffer from meetingitis.

Joe Altieri is the Inventor and CEO of FlexScreen. His product – the world’s first and only flexible window screen - was featured on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank, where he hooked a deal with the proclaimed “Queen of QVC,” Lori Greiner. joealtieri@flexscreen.com

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BY JOE ALTIERI

Joe Altieri is a third-generation entrepreneur, inventor, speaker, and President and CEO of his own multi-million dollar company.

During his 20+ years in the window industry, Joe recognized the inherent problems with old-style aluminum window screens and dealt personally with constant customer frustrations. Always an outside-the-box thinker, he knew there had to be a better way, so he set up shop in his garage and got to work. After years of trial and error, FlexScreen, the world's first and only flexible window screen, was born.

Since its introduction into the marketplace, FlexScreen has gained international attention and earned multiple industry awards. Most notably, FlexScreen was catapulted to the forefront when Joe appeared on ABC's hit show, Shark Tank, in January 2020. Three of the five Sharks battled for a piece of FlexScreen with Lori Greiner, the Queen of QVC, ultimately winning the deal.

Joe is a firm believer in giving back, and he is generous with his resources and his time. Several years ago, he was honored and recognized as one of Pittsburgh's Volunteers of the Year. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife of 25 years, Alisha. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two very pampered Cane Corsos.

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