During and after my time in MBA school, I served for three years on the Board of Directors of a local professional organization.
Then, I went full-bore into entrepreneurship, having become a “marketing guy” which was different than what this organization was about, and was planning to retire from the Board.
Proving Michael Corleone’s adage…
…at this specific juncture, the outgoing Board appealed to me to run for President.
I accepted and won.
From the moment I took office,
I Decided To Make A Big Change That Was Long In Coming (Emphasis On The Word “Long”)
See, the Board of Directors met once per month, usually on the third Wednesday, from 6:30pm until 8:00pm.
What often happened was, the meetings ran two, in a few cases three hours, with most of the time taken up by narrative reports from each Board member and a lot of the same conversations from month to month.
Being a man of action, not meetings, my first act as President was to request that at least 48 hours before each meeting, each Board member send to the entire Board, via e-mail, a summary report consisting of three simple items:
- What they’re working on
- Where they need support from the other Board members
- The ideas they have to grow the chapter
A short email with bullet points was fine.
No need for formal proposals or elaborate documents.
Just the facts.
The First Time Around, Four Of The Seven Board Members Submitted Their Reports In Advance.
At the meeting, I called on each of the four, in turn, to
- Invite board comment on Point #1
- Elicit board assistance on Point #2
- Share thoughts on Point #3
About 55 minutes in, the four were done. I gleefully slammed my hand on the table and said “Awesome meeting guys! See you next month. We’re adjourned!”
Uh oh. Clouds on the horizon.
The Three Board Members Left Un-Called On Were Outraged!
Why didn’t they get a turn?
Why was there no discussion of their work, needs, or ideas?
As nicely as I could, I said
“Elementary, my dear Watson. You didn’t support a report, or told me you didn’t want to submit a report, so either you have nothing to contribute or you have everything so well managed in your own department you don’t need the rest of us. Therefore we’re not going to take up time for something you don’t need. We need to be efficient!”
This message did not go over well at first.
But I was not giving an inch.
Cue the next meeting, where not only were all seven reports submitted via e-mail in timely fashion, but
The Board Members Competed To See Who Would Submit Their Report First, And Even Asked Me To Review And Approve Their Drafts Before Submitting!
No report was ever turned in late, or not turned in at all, again.
For the rest of the year, most Board meetings ended sooner than the 90 minutes allotted.
Four key points here:
- Everyone wants to be included; no one wants to feel left out
- So long as the new way of doing things allows people to feel included, AND shows them how their own time investment will be better rewarded and let them experience more of a true leadership role, they can be persuaded to support it
- Stick to your guns. Even positive change scares people, if for no other reason than it contains unknowns
- Get this done, and your people will be more excited to provide exceptional service to your customers!
More Recently, I Guided A Client Of Ours To Do The Same Thing With Their Weekly Team Meetings.
The client officially appointed me the “meeting chair” to make sure this got done, and also so the client could focus on guiding strategy without having to manage logistics.
The first go-around, all but one person submitted a written report.
Fast-forward to the middle of the meeting.
The client called on the person who had not submitted a written report.
That person chimed in saying, “Okay, I have an oral report. So-“
I interjected, “I’m sorry, but you don’t have an oral report. We don’t do oral reports. If there’s time at the end, you can ask questions” – and moved on to the next person who had submitted a report.
I was the meeting chair, and the client – a person of impeccable integrity – respected my move.
Of course, we ran out of time right before the person who did not submit a report had the chance to get a turn. It was a 60-minute meeting and we were on minute 59 by the time everyone else had their turn.
Did the others, who submitted reports, stand to feel excited to render exceptional customer service if they followed the rules, only to see the one person who didn’t follow the rules willfully try to skirt them AND be asked to give the meeting more time than they had given us permission for, in order to accommodate this one person?
That kind of frustration could easily ripple through to the customers.
Now, before you say how mean I was refusing to let that one person report, take a look at the results.
Guess whose written reports were submitted first, every time going forward?
Guess who came up with an amazing idea that helped the organization reach an entirely new audience we hadn’t even considered up until then, gaining the organization awesome new market position?
Guess who was, just a few weeks later, singled out by the client before the entire team for their exceptional contributions to the organization?
At any rate, it’s a lot better than listening to long reports and the same conversation over and over.
No more wasting time and sapping enthusiasm and energy that SHOULD be shared with customers!
Speaking of saving time, this is what you should also do during meetings.
Let’s Team Up And Optimize Your Business