Five Keys for Great Meetings, Part 4: What Did We Decide?

This week I’m continuing with the five-part series on creating more engaging, meaningful, effective and impactful meetings through these five keys:

1.   Start and Finish on Time

2.   Be Clear on the Question (or Agenda)

3.   Don’t Solve Problems (other than the problem that’s the focus of the meeting)

4.   Finish with “What Did We Decide?”

5.   Always Establish Clear Ownership and Next Steps

Today we’re looking at the most important question to ask at the end of every discussion and meeting: What did we decide?

It’s a simple question and concept, but one that is far too rarely asked and answered. The reason for missing this important part of every meeting is also simple: we assume we know what we decided – and THAT’s the problem. We all know the problem with assumptions, and it’s especially true when we assume we know what was decided without clearly asking and answering the question.

I’m sure you all remember playing the telephone game when you were younger, where you share something to one person, and they share it with another person and so on. In the end, the message has dramatically changed, and this is the same effect that occurs in our meetings. Compounding this problem is the fact that we tend to hear what we want to hear, which includes concluding (actually, assuming) that everything that was discussed is a decision. Let me be clear – this is NOT true – and the only way to know what was decided is to ask the magic question at the end of every discussion and at the end of every meeting.

Here’s a heads up: you’ll need to allow lots of time for the question and answer at the end of the meeting, because it will take you much longer than you think to unwrap what people thought was decided and to determine what actually was decided. In fact, you’ll end up spending a good bit of time actually making some decisions, as well as clarifying the decisions that have already been made.

While it may sound overly simple (and it is), the impact is profound. You’ll find that you leave meetings with clarity on what has been decided, including eliminating the inaccurate assumptions that are already holding you back. When you think something has been decided, but in fact either no decision was made, or the actual decision was different than what you thought, you can be assured that your execution and effectiveness will suffer or even fail. 

It’s this simple – once you shift your meetings from vague discussions to clear and confirmed decisions, your effectiveness, execution and impact will improve and accelerate overnight. Lead your meetings differently and make sure you always ask the magic question: What did we decide?

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