More than Just Talk: The Purpose and Benefits of Meetings
As companies evolve in a New Age of Work, there’s no doubt that meetings matter — but only when the purpose is clear, the agenda is established, and the time spent together leads to alignment, actionable outcomes, and appropriate follow-up communications. This article focuses on the purpose and benefits of meetings, providing insight into making the most of that precious time team members spend together.
Defining a purpose for the various meetings a team, department, or organization might hold is critical for a number of reasons. The most obvious is ensuring team members at the meeting know exactly why they’re there. But it goes much deeper than that. People are far more engaged in meetings when they know what’s expected of them and what they’ll be accountable for once the meeting ends.
The number and type of meetings an organization might have may vary widely depending on the Stage of Development of the organization. Early on, in survival mode, some organizations might hold many meetings that are hastily pulled together with no agenda and little forethought. This practice contributes to the notion that meetings can be a waste of time.
But as businesses mature, meetings should take on more structure and purpose. The key to defining that purpose is to think about context over content — the why more than the what. That’s exactly what we’ll run through in this article.
The Benefits of Meetings
Anyone who has ever booked a meeting starts by looking at the attendees’ calendars… and then takes a deep breath. No doubt, it can be a challenge to find a time that works for everyone. (Think about it: when was the last time you were easily able to coordinate dinner plans for 8–10 people?)
But finding the time is so important, especially when we consider the nature of work today, with in-person, hybrid, and fully remote teams. Meaningful meetings are a critical component to keeping all team members healthily connected wherever they may be. Those meetings also help in establishing goals and adding to the culture — and success — of an organization.
At a basic level, we bring people together for five reasons:
- To get information or opinions
- To give information or opinions
- To solve issues (by making decisions and committing to actions)
- To create and work on ideas
- To maintain or increase trust
At Ninety, some of our meetings are focused on a single purpose, while others have a combination of purposes. To ensure they’re effective, we use time-tested agendas that align everyone to the meeting’s purpose and anticipated outcomes.
Now, let’s get into the purpose of meetings below.
Meeting Purpose #1: Accountability
Our recurring Weekly, Quarterly, and Annual meetings always dedicate time to aligning around priorities and getting clear accountability through agreements. At Ninety, we’re huge believers in agreements (rather than expectations) because they define who we are. Our agreements include our Core Values, the Roles and Responsibilities associated with a Seat, and more.
Creating clear agreements and genuinely living up to them is, in part, what allows organizations to build something that will have sustained success over the long haul. Our agendas ensure that team members have time to report on the status of agreements — To-Dos, Rocks, and more — and how key performance indicators (KPIs) are performing versus the targets we’ve set. These very concise reports help ensure we’re all on the same page when there’s an Issue and make clear who’s accountable for the action(s) of resolving that Issue.
We also believe in creating full awareness of the impact not fulfilling our agreements has on others — whether they’re team members, people we lead, others within the organization, clients, or partners. Accountability, coupled with that much-needed honesty, is what allows individuals and larger teams to build trust and a sense of responsibility to each other. And that’s what propels a company or business toward creating both an enduring and thriving culture.
Meeting Purpose #2: Issues Solving
All our recurring meetings include a section for raising, discussing, and resolving Issues — a process we call RDR — to guide us through efficient problem-solving as a team. Issues can be problems, opportunities, or both. We almost always solve an Issue with some form of agreement that includes one or more actions. Some actions are simple and short-term, such as creating a To-Do. Others are longer-term actions, like creating a Rock candidate for the next quarter by moving the Issue to our Long-Term Issues list.
Our cloud-based platform lets teams document and organize Issues right in the Meetings tool. RDR takes some practice to master, but once a team finds its rhythm with the process, they’ll resolve Issues efficiently. This helps the team, department, and organization move forward with confidence.
Meeting Purpose #3: Feedback
Let’s start with a caveat: we actually prefer the term “feedforward,” which means providing constructive, forward-looking suggestions and observations designed to help team members grow. This approach is different from feedback, which is often weighted with criticism of things past and rarely offers positive solutions.
Anyone responsible for delivering feedback must do all they can to ensure that not only is the substance constructive (we refer to this as truthful, specific, and positive) but also preemptively eliminates the need for having the same conversation twice.
We’re huge believers in the power of talking about how we’re doing. Fact is, most performance problems and conflicts can be solved through timely and well-structured conversations. At Ninety, everyone participates in what we call a weekly 1-on-1. As a work-from-anywhere company, we find that we’re well connected across the organization when everyone participates in a Weekly Team Meeting with their team and a weekly 1-on-1 with their team leader.
Speaking of meetings, one of the things we don’t believe in is annual reviews. Why let all that time go by to formally share thoughts on how the year went? Instead, we strongly encourage having quarterly 1-on-1s. At Ninety, we leverage a 1-on-1 agenda for two-way conversations where the leader and their team member take turns talking about how they believe each of them is doing in terms of the core agreements associated with their respective functions.
In addition to formal feedback sessions, we encourage our leaders and their direct reports to reach out not just to one another but to their peers if something is going a bit sideways. The productivity, health, and resiliency of an organization is highly dependent on how supportive it is in creating a culture that embraces creativity and encourages both positive and constructive feedback.
Here are some tips for giving effective feedback:
- Acknowledge what’s happened and realize you don’t know the entire story
- Appreciate what the person did well and communicate it to them sincerely
- Establish a guiding value or shared commitment that warrants a change in behavior
- Discuss alternative behaviors — be specific
Bottom line: all issues can be solved through conversations.
Meeting Purpose #4: Goal Setting
Our quarterly and annual meetings always include a section dedicated to setting goals. We do this at the Senior Leadership Team level, the department level, and the team level. Goals are almost always aligned and supportive of the vision laid out and shared with an entire company. At Ninety, we use the Vision tool to document our Vision, our Goals, and the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) that relate to our aspirations.
The Vision tool helps present the roadmap for what we hope to accomplish, how to get there, and all the challenges and opportunities that arise along the way. It fosters alignment, eliminates ambiguity, and presents a true North Star (it’s really a constellation, but we suspect you get the imagery) for any organization.
We encourage you to dig a little deeper and see how we conduct Vision and Goal Setting Sessions to inform what’s represented in the Vision tool.
Meeting Purpose #5: Agreements
This one’s pretty simple. Most of our meetings are about getting agreements. We’re intent on getting super clear about who is going to do what and by when. As coaches, we’ve seen too many teams not think through the second- and third-order effects of their agreements. At Ninety, we deeply believe in what we call Getting Smart Stuff Done (GSSD), which is one of our Core Values. GSSD means we’ve thought about the various forms of agreements that are necessary to smartly arrive at “done.”
Meeting Purpose #6: Teaching
Organizations that hold internal teaching and/or training sessions help team members maximize their performance by expanding their knowledge and skill sets. As we move into the New Age of Work, we believe that all great companies need to embrace investing in helping their employees acquire and develop their competencies to take on new experiences (and, in turn, become more valuable).
At Ninety, we hold all sorts of teaching meetings, both one-offs and series. We always record these. Our long-term goal is to build a robust Learning Management System (LMS) not just for our employees but eventually for our clients, too.
Meeting Purpose #7: Coaching
We deeply believe that the days of “management” are in the rearview mirror. Today, it’s all about Leading and Coaching. Managing people is a relic of the Industrial Revolution era when authority needed to be imposed upon “direct reports” through management techniques and processes.
Coaching is about helping people get what they want by (as we say) becoming better and better versions of the best version of themselves. To do this, one of the responsibilities of a good coach is to meet a team member “where they are” in their life and/or career. A good coach understands not only who that team member is but also what they want. Armed with this, the coach can help them with the what, when, and how to best get from here to there based on their own level of ambition.
Meeting Purpose #8: Bonding/Culture
Great organizations are constantly working on building and maintaining a healthy and durable culture. Culture may be intangible, but it’s not that hard to see it when we spend time observing a company’s dynamics. The relationships between people and groups, what seems to be working (or not), how people support each other, solve challenges, or resolve conflict — these are all facets of organizational culture.
As a work-from-anywhere company, we host an event for all team members at least once a year. These are not lavish affairs. It’s simply a time for everyone to come together at a location that’s appropriate for who we are and provides a healthy environment for reflecting on what we’ve achieved… with just the right amount of fun mixed in!
Since we’re a swiftly growing company, these events are often the first time some of us meet in person. We include a bit of teaching, lots of bonding, and opportunities for people to gather for an hour here or there to deepen their connections with each other.
Making the Purpose Productive
Imagine that all your meetings turn into welcomed rituals. Events that people genuinely look forward to and appreciate being part of. Imagine your company marching 90 days at a time, hitting 90% of its agreements (Rocks, KPIs, To-Dos, all of them). Imagine your company turning into a great goal-scoring machine.
Would you love that?
Well, we’d love that for you. Even better, we’re here to help you make that small dream come true.
Automate and Run Your First Meeting for Free
Our Meetings tool automates your meetings and includes time-tested agendas that keep you on track — and on time. We make it easy to prioritize topics, document To-Dos, and take notes in real-time. Recap emails and archived meetings let you reflect and take action at any time.
Start making the most of your time. Create your first meeting for free in Ninety today.