Why Business Meetings Are Broken (And How to Fix Them)

Give team meetings, one-on-ones, and quarterly business reviews a much-needed makeover

It’s no secret that meetings aren’t universally loved. More often than not, they can be tedious, repetitive, or a flat-out waste of time.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, your very next business meeting can be better. That’s why we created our new suite of team productivity templates for team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and quarterly business reviews.

At Redbooth, we often hear from customers that they’ve used our platform to cut in half the amount of time it takes to do something.

Whether it’s launching a product or onboarding a new employee, it’s more efficient when there’s a simple process to follow and all the information is there. Our users are able to spend their time focusing on more important things, not the minutiae.

Now Redbooth is making it easy for you to transform your meetings as well.

Team Meetings

Business Meeting Agenda

Throughout my career, I’ve seen so many ineffective meetings. The bigger and more complex a meeting gets, the harder it is to drive solid execution.

In a lot of these meetings, people are rolling their eyes. They’re bringing their devices in. They’re multitasking. They’re not listening.

In a lot of meetings, people are rolling their eyes and multitasking. Think about why. Click To Tweet

Meanwhile, the contents of the meeting aren’t getting reliably recorded either. People don’t effectively capture and track the information, and so that information doesn’t live anywhere.

So when you have the next meeting, very often, people are just struggling with, “What did we talk about last time? When is that due? How is it tracked?” Before the meeting even starts, they’re already behind.

The biggest companies aren’t necessarily doing it right

I was talking to a big public company the other day that just became a customer, and they’re using Excel to track everything. It’s one document owned by one person. Nobody else has access, and that person literally has to go meet with each person and update the spreadsheet.

It’s a disaster.

When companies rely on processes like this for their meetings and follow-up, their output suffers. Their people start to lose faith in the team and in management.

I think a lot of team meetings meetings, unfortunately, are spent rudderless; there’s no agenda. And a lot of it is people giving status updates, and they’re informational, not execution-oriented.

At many companies, team meetings are spent rudderless. There's no agenda. Click To Tweet

Simplicity is key

For our team meetings template, we’ve created a single simple workspace where everybody has visibility into it. Burdensome, complex processes aren’t going to improve morale.

This template is essentially a container where you can store and visualize everything related to your team meeting. Everybody on the team can update what they’re doing, see what’s happening, and add comments, files, and notes.

When all of that information already lives in a team meeting workspace, the meeting doesn’t have to be entirely about project status. You can spend a few minutes reviewing all the status and progress updates in the workspace.

And once you go in there, everybody is informed and on the same page; you don’t need to take two hours to do that. A lot of meetings literally take an hour for people just to talk about what they’re doing.

Don’t give updates; tackle hard questions

Once you no longer have to focus on basic-level updates, your team meeting can be about the important things that actually affect forward movement:

  • What’s preventing progress?
  • What are some blockers?
  • Are there decisions that need to be made?
  • Are there things that people need to discuss for alignment or for informational purposes?

The key goal here is have the mindset to get away from an informational meeting. Your team meeting really shouldn’t be all about what people have been doing. It’s much more about “How do we move from Point A to Point B?”

Just think how powerful it would be if you could spend every meeting focusing on knocking down blockers or getting to the next level.

Just think how powerful it would be if you spent every meeting actually getting to the next level. Click To Tweet

One-on-One Meetings

Business Meeting Agenda

We’ve established that team meetings should not be giant status updates. The same thing applies to one-on-one meetings. Sure, there’s some conversation around recent activities, but fundamentally a one-on-one should be about employee growth and development.

When you hold a one-on-one with a direct report, it should be a discussion of what’s going well and where the challenges lie. It should be about where your employee wants to be one year from now or even five years from now.

Here’s where it gets challenging: The typical manager has 8 to 10 direct reports. That’s way too many to keep in your head and hope you remember everything. But don’t be tempted to start cancelling one-on-one meetings because you’re overwhelmed — according to HBR, doing that could actually decrease your productivity.

Instead, streamline your process. Here’s how.

Track conversations with multiple employees

Having a place for each one-on-one where those discussions and that information can live is really important. In Redbooth, it could be a workspace that’s private to the manager, or it could be shared with the employee — or it could be a shared workspace with several private tasks.

This doesn’t mean that you personally need to build out comprehensive matrices for 10 direct reports! We’re all about efficiency at Redbooth. That’s where the one-on-one meeting template comes in. The workspace is pre-built for you and completely flexible, meaning that once you launch it you can modify it in any way you like.

You can also have each employee fill in what they’re working on. Go in and add tasks where you want to capture thoughts to share with the employee or areas for improvement. When you meet, you can make those tasks “public,” so that you and the employee can view and discuss them.

Free up your mental bandwidth as a manager

By capturing everything in one place, storing it, and automating it, you don’t have to remember, “Was the goal assigned to this person or that person?” It helps you to visualize it and spend less resources trying to remember it, and just trying to focus your efforts on managing, growing, and mentoring.

I think the act of trying to mentally organize, store, capture all that information is really taxing.

So it frees up your mind to store it in a centralized place, enabling you to really spend and focus your efforts on growing the employee, getting the best performance out of them, building a good, working relationship, not trying to remember what you have to do this week or next week. It drives effectiveness on both sides.

Trying to mentally organize and store too much information is taxing — and unnecessary. Click To Tweet

Quarterly Business Reviews

Business Meeting Agenda

Very, very few companies have effectively nailed the art of the large-scale meeting.
More and more companies are gathering their people together on a quarterly basis to have what’s called a QBR, or quarterly business review. Sometimes they call it a “team strategy session” or a “strategic planning meeting.”

Generally, a lot of it is literally a review. For instance, sales will provide key metrics, marketing will provide their metrics. You’ll review strategic goals first, and then it’s a lot of review, as well as checking in with key initiatives and strategic accounts. (Not familiar with a QBR? Check out this excellent description from Gainsight.)

Compared to team meetings and one-on-one meetings, these meetings are even more challenging because they’re less frequent and there’s a huge volume of information.

And just from quarter to quarter, people have a really tough time even remembering what the last meeting was about. This “memory problem” and lack of consistency can have profound ramifications.

Make communicating and remembering easy

Part of the value of the Redbooth QBR template is to have visibility into what you talked about not only last quarter, but two quarters ago or a year ago. It gives you a way to house an ongoing stream of information where you can track trends and capture and search what people talked about — and it allows you to manage that big, important, complex process.

You’re looking at an in-depth review of information, as well as setting key goals for the next quarter.

At many companies, there’s such a large volume of information (and no good way to deal with it) that you’ll see huge PowerPoint presentations getting e-mailed around. It’s very hard to keep track of them and the resulting discussions.

What Redbooth offers you with this template is a shared workspace where everybody comes together. You can actually see and revisit what the goals are.

So when everybody leaves after the meeting, they don’t have to remember for 3 months who owns which task or what they’re supposed to be focused on. You can capture it right there, where it’s trackable. You can manage it and you have visibility into that progress.

Redbooth offers you a shared workspace where everybody can see and revisit company goals. Click To Tweet

Choose consistency over spectacle

A lot of companies have a “Big Bang” approach where everybody gets together, there’s a lot of fury, and then it dies down over the next few months. Then it starts up again as you near the next quarterly business review.

But with a shared workspace, you can establish a consistent cadence of team productivity and collaboration around key company goals. And that’s how you get success.

Better Meetings Aren’t Trivial

What could it mean for your company to make all of your meetings more efficient and more productive? To reference the title of an excellent book on organizational transformation, it could help you go from good to great really quickly.

You could spend your cycles and your gray matter on doing great things, not on trying to find that page in your notebook or an email in a pile of thousands of emails. You could really just free your entire team and focus on soaring to great heights and doing great things.

Explore the entire Redbooth templates library »