5 Steps to Running Your Meeting Toward a Purpose

Karen James On Purpose

Meetings need to know their purpose. Meetings need to hold themselves accountable to their purpose. Meetings are not huddles… although who doesn't love a good huddle? Huddle to clarify where you are going, huddle to check in, and huddle whenever you need to -- but meet with purpose and finish on purpose.

Having recently researched the power of purpose extensively for my book, On Purpose, I have decided it is probably one of the most underutilized words in English. Purpose could be and should be in most conversations, documents, emails, and -- dare I say -- mandatory in every meeting invitation. So what stops us from demanding more purpose in our lives? What stops us from going into any meeting without knowing its purpose? (Please note I am not speaking to networking or community-building meetings -- I am talking about the kind organizations have with their stakeholders that require specific, measurable outcomes).

Perhaps we don't always ask for the purpose because we don't really want to know? Perhaps we don't ask for the purpose because we revert to our childhood when the term "on purpose" was an idiom, as in, "did you do that on purpose?" -- the question we were usually asked when we were in trouble. Perhaps we enjoy the mindless, purposeless activities and tasks. Who is to know? What I do know is our fast-moving digital economy coupled with a world in desperate need of change, needs purpose to take center stage. 

Let's start by having every meeting define its purpose. Let's run our meeting to that purpose. And let's finish our meetings on purpose -- not the idiom, the literal meaning of the word.

Here are the five simple steps which often get missed or go astray in situ:

1. Let everyone know why you are meeting. What is the purpose of the meeting -- the reason the meeting exists.
2. When you start the meeting, remind everyone of the meeting's purpose.
3. When the drift kicks in, track everyone back to your purpose by asking if the drift can be parked, picked up later, moved, or noted. Take swift steps to capture greatness or to dismiss noise -- getting you back to your core purpose.
4. Test everyone using Simon Sinek's Golden Ring -- the why, why, why.
5. Finish by summarizing the outcomes and how they relate to the prescribed purpose. If you had to pivot and change course that is ok as long as you know why. As corny as this sounds, celebrate at the end no matter how senior you are -- it makes everyone feel like there has been meaning in the meeting. 

Karen James' brand is a double entendre. Just Change is about moving fast to achieve your purpose and vision whilst at the same time making sure your ethics and values are your foundation. She harnesses diversity of thought and bring everyone to the table so that all constituents are served with the customer at the heart of everything. Her recently published book by Wiley International, On Purpose, is my testament to her purpose -- to ignite just change for a better world. She believes in weaving purpose through the core of what and how we get stuff done brings it to life. It moves things from platitudes to reality and manifests opportunity.