Omar Tawakol, CEO, Voicera

Conducting a meeting, perhaps for good reason, gives managers an uneasy feeling. That's because we've all been in our share of directionless meetings, which are more a product of bad culture than of any person’s inefficiency.

If this sounds like a meeting you’ve been in lately (or ever), that malaise you’ve felt usually falls into one of three meeting culture fail buckets:

1. Poor energy: You are clear on your goals, but when people perform well, you don't balance celebrating the achievement with raising the bar. If you don't find ways to invigorate or celebrate your team's achievements, members will burn themselves out and seek greener pastures. Before long, outsiders will look in and wonder why you can't recruit the best.

2. Poor follow-through: Your team may have good ideas but have no way to track them. When this happens, you get the sneaking suspicion that nothing is getting done, which over time can result in your slipping behind competitors and letting down customers. This happens in meetings that don't have clear, repeatable processes for measuring performance.

3. Poor decision-making: Success can be achieved only if we are willing to tackle the hard problems facing our organizations. When your meetings focus only on metrics or pipelines rather than tackling strategic challenges, you might fail to address problems until it is too late.

If you've been stuck in any of these meeting culture ruts, it is not too late to fix it. To break out of the bad cycle, create a meeting environment that is focused, positive, and results-obsessed.

Give Your Meeting Culture a Makeover

Transforming any culture starts with identifying the lapses. Use a balance of the following three meeting structures to build your own unique culture that brings the best out of your employees at each gathering.

1. The Navy Seal test: As with a team of elite warriors, the focus of this approach is driving results and measuring progress. Start by customizing a small set of important goals for the team, then continually push the team toward the desired shared result.

Share in advance the metrics you're using and create total transparency so team members can hold one another accountable. With this maneuver, you set expectations right off the bat and get everybody tackling the same course.

2. The suspense thriller: The monotonous tone that some meetings take lulls attendees into a disengaged state. The suspense thriller — as the name suggests — should heighten urgency and engage people in making a strategic decision that requires preparation and engagement.

Just as you are thoughtful about your metrics and goals, jot down a schedule of important topics you want to cover, then instruct a team member to come prepared to drive the discussion. Attendees will feel encouraged to sit up and contribute rather than sit back and just "be there."

3. The pep rally: Think of a high school pep rally with a workplace twist. Inspiring leaders use rally-style meetings to share customer news that gets everyone pumped up. Then, they round the meetings out by identifying areas of improvement for the team.

Here, it's important to pinpoint exactly where your team excels and highlight a few genuine reasons to celebrate. Prepare two or three accomplishments that deserve praise from each employee or department, then reward them for their efforts. Calling out success stories will give attendees something to look forward to and will inspire everyone to strive toward similar achievements.

Don't dread leading your next meeting. Instead, take a cue from meeting cultures that work and have your team balance these meeting styles so that they come away feeling energized.


Omar Tawakol is the CEO of Voicera (formerly Workfit), a company that helps businesses harness the power of voice. He is also the founder and former CEO of BlueKai, and he previously served as senior vice president and general manager of the Oracle Data Cloud.

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