Every meeting should have these three things

Several correlations can be made between business meetings and sports timeouts. The two share similar DNA regarding their purpose and projected outcome, but oftentimes they are used very differently. When you break down the constructs that make up what a business meeting should look like and what a sports timeout should look like, there are striking similarities. Peering through the lens of how American football coaches use timeouts, here are three things every meeting should have:

  1. Absolute Necessity. Each team in an NFL game gets six timeouts to use at their disposal (three in the first half, three in the second half). Coaches are free to use these timeouts whenever they want, but it is quite strategic that they be used only when they really need to. It’s uncommon, for example, for a coach to use a timeout in the first few minutes of a game. Typically, coaches choose to use their timeouts in the waning minutes of each half when emotions are high, the pressure is on, and a quick refresher of the plan is needed. Meetings at the workplace should be no different. Only call for a meeting when it is absolutely necessary, understanding that more work gets done out on the sales floor and in offices than in internal meetings inside conference rooms.
  2. Time Conscious. In college football, timeouts are ninety seconds. In the NFL, timeouts are usually thirty seconds (they can sometimes be extended with commercial breaks). When coaches only have thirty to ninety seconds to ‘meet’ with their players, they must be direct and purposeful. As a manager or executive, you must respect the fact that your employees’ time is just as valuable as yours. Give your team the proper instruction they need to elevate their performance. That’s it. Don’t waste time on miscellaneous tasks that can be facilitated elsewhere.
  3. Empowerment. The final instruction a coach gives his players before they head back onto the field is usually one of belief and support. It is a high-energy vote of confidence, because players tend to remember the last thing the coach said more than anything else. As a manager, you should aim to end every meeting in the emotional state you want them in for whatever they are doing next, which almost always should be positive, optimistic and confident. Refrain from using ‘I’ or ‘me’ when doing this; adjoin yourself at the hip of the ‘us’ and ‘we’ pronouns. If you don’t, you will create a subconscious barrier between you and your team. Provide a call to action, something to be achieved together as a group, not just individually.

In 2017, the Harvard Business Review published an article detailing the quantitative increase of business meetings over the last half century. The supporting research that was presented explained that “meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s. And that doesn’t even include all the impromptu gatherings that don’t make it onto the schedule.”

As a leader, have you experienced this? Do you ever look at your weekly calendar and see time blocks repeatedly filled with meetings you’d really rather not feel obliged to attend? I bet you have. And I bet you also have attended meetings that started late, ran long, quickly went off topic, offered no value or had no agenda. Am I sending tingles down your spine?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Start utilizing meetings the same way coaches utilize timeouts. Call a meeting only when it is absolutely necessary, be conscious of yours and others’ time during the meeting, and always finish with an empowering, actionable step your team can take immediately following the meeting.

Read the original article by Spencer Ferrari-Wood

Spencer Ferrari-Wood is an American coach, speaker, writer and teacher living in Europe. He writes articles and reviews and has a collection of thoughts for your morning routine. He's spoken at different events ranging from leadership, to American