Meetings shouldn’t be awful. It’s this stance that has led some organizations to throw off the shackles of ambiguous meetings, which tend to be short on details and long on time. In response, they’ve come together to implement a Meeting Attendees' Bill of Rights. And if those rights aren’t respected, they have the right to leave the meeting.
We’ve seen more organizations and teams adopting different ways to combat poorly run meetings, which can overrun an Outlook Calendar like a color-coded insurgency. The negative effects of one bad meeting ripple out, affecting other parts of the organization. One meeting that runs long means another meeting starts late; a meeting that ends with no decision means the next action becomes another meeting to decide what to do, taking up more time.
So what have these companies put in a Meeting Attendees’ Bill of Rights? Some examples include:
- All meetings will have a focused and relevant invitee list to reflect only those that actually need to be there
- The meeting will start on time, and end on time
- Following the meeting, notes, decisions, and next-actions will be shared in a timely manner (define "timely manner" with your team)
Depending on your team's situation, you may not immediately need a full scale Bill of Rights. Still, a set of agreements around best practices for meetings is helpful. Try soliciting information from those in your group who regularly attend meetings, and see what problems people feel they are facing. For your next group meeting review a set of proposals to address those issues, and get agreement from the group to respect and implement them.
This is not a “thou shalt not” document, where the rules are set in stone. It’s a living one that will evolve with your team and your changing organization. The key is setting up an environment that has the right balance of predictability, yet still encourages spontaneity and creativity. That’s what a good Meeting Attendees’ Bill of Rights should promote.
Meetings can take up so much of our time. Experiment with a Bill of Rights to make that time as valuable as it can be.