Do you find yourself asking “How can I lead more effective meetings?”
Tired of leading boring, pointless meetings and telling people the same things over and over? Frustrated because your colleagues refuse to take ownership or act on priorities? Surrounded by folks who just can’t get on the same darn page to save any sanity? Many such problems and challenges arise because their isn’t a coordination structure in place. Fortunately, anyone can implement a coordination structure; one of the simplest structures used among high performing teams is easy to learn.
Lead More Effective Meetings
Use the 2 by 2 by 2 (2x2x2) meeting structure.
We know from teamwork training research, that good teamwork behaviors can be trained. We also know that chief among these good teamwork behaviors are getting teams to begin with effective meetings. After all, many of the prerequisites for effective teamwork happen in regular meetings. (Prerequisites like defining the team’s overall purpose/mission, setting team goals, and formulating plans to achieve an organization’s objectives.) Meeting behaviors can make or break a team, and thus grow or sink a business. Poor communication and coordination in meetings leaves the team, and hence the business, at greater risk of confusion, nonproductive conflict, and failure.
One challenge to leading an effective meeting is giving the team enough information to understand the working situation–without overwhelming with too many details. As Cognitive Psychology shows, humans have limited attention spans both in terms of how long we can focus and how much information we can focus on. We’re also highly distractable and more subject to information fatigue and interference than most of us are aware. We’ve all had that moment: someone points out that we haven’t heard a word they were saying, or we’ve forgotten something we’ve been told numerous times about.
It helps to lead meetings in ways that make the most of our limited attention spans. For instance, focusing on no more than six things, grouped in two to three chunks that are associated with particular leaders or functions (e.g. marketing, operations, accounting). This is why we recommend using a 2x2x2 meeting structure. Structuring meetings this way makes the most of our limited attention spans by focusing our time and energy where it counts the most. It also allows team members to form a shared picture of what leaders are working on and why, which enables better management of shared resources and enables more helping behaviors to occur.
How a 2x2x2 Meeting Works
In a 2x2x2 meeting, every presenter has 5 minutes to briefly state her 2 biggest concerns today, her 2 major projects or accomplishments impacting this week, and the 2 resources/ help she needs most this week. To do this, each leader must come prepared, write them down at least 15 minutes before the meeting, to talk about their:
- Biggest Concerns
- Major Project or Accomplishments
- Specific Help or Resources Needed
Here is an example of one presenter keeping to the 2x2x2 meeting structure.
For example: “My biggest concerns are dealing with product shortage and meeting the repair deadline on our cafe’s freezer. We did manage to get all of our kitchen employees “Safe 2 Serve” certified last week, which is a major accomplishment. That helps ready us for my main focus, national hospital health inspection next month. For help, I need supervisors to make sure that we are recording temperatures in the logs for every refrigerator and freezer on site at least eight times daily on even hours. I also still need approval from accounting to purchase the rest of the personnel protection equipment required to meet hospital standards for the lobby cafe.”
You may not always have exact 2 concerns or 2 major projects or need 2 helps. Sometimes it might be 1 x 3 x 2, or 5 x 1 x 0, or etc. But, keep it to 6 points total and try to cover all three areas. It’s okay to skip an area if you don’t have anything there to add. For example, if you don’t need any help from other meeting attendees, you might skip #3.
The 2x2x2 structure works best if every presenter endeavors sticks to that structure. Even if only one person is presenting, using 2x2x2 ensures that priorities and needs are clearer. It helps the team coordination and enables them to support that person’s initiatives.
A final tip, others are more likely to give you the help if you are very specific:
- Who do you need help from.
- What do you need specifically.
- When do you need it.
- And make sure they understand why you need the help.
Teams and Effective Team Work
Meetings are a necessary evil of collaborative teamwork and a corner stone of the modern work. With a little discipline, the 2x2x2 structure maximizes positive effects of a meeting while reducing time cost. As our teamwork skills training simulations often show, following a consistent meeting structure ensures teams have just the right amount of information to plan well and make more effective decisions on the fly later as challenges arise.