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Episode 52  |  15:18 min

#51: How To Run A Meeting

Episode 52  |  15:18 min  |  01.04.2017

#51: How To Run A Meeting

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This is a podcast episode titled, #51: How To Run A Meeting. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- Meetings. In the early days of a company, meetings are rare. But then before you know it, 15 people turn into 30 people — and you’re spending more of your time in meetings than you were before and getting nothing done. That’s exactly what has happened to us at Drift over the last few months (going from 15 to 30). And before we get to the point where people are spending more time in meetings than actually making things, David shared a memo with the team on our company wiki titled "Meetings at Drift.” So that’s what we’re talking about on this episode of Seeking Wisdom — how we deal with meetings, and the guardrails we use for meetings at Drift. Ways to support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.
If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- Meetings. In the early days of a company, meetings are rare. But then before you know it, 15 people turn into 30 people — and you’re spending more of your time in meetings than you were before and getting nothing done. That’s exactly what has happened to us at Drift over the last few months (going from 15 to 30). And before we get to the point where people are spending more time in meetings than actually making things, David shared a memo with the team on our company wiki titled "Meetings at Drift.” So that’s what we’re talking about on this episode of Seeking Wisdom — how we deal with meetings, and the guardrails we use for meetings at Drift. Ways to support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.

Speaker 1: Okay, this is on. So today on Seeking Wisdom, we're going to talk about... You know what we're talking about?

Speaker 2: No idea but I'm fired up.

Speaker 1: We're going to talk about meetings.

Speaker 2: Meetings.

Speaker 1: That is like the internet cool sound of having a meeting.

Speaker 2: Yeah. When you talk about meetings, this is the international reply.

Speaker 1: Really? A meeting? So in true Seeking Wisdom fashion, this is legitimately off the top. You wrote something on our company Wiki last night and I was like, okay, we had this time on the calendar to record a podcast today. And I was like, I don't know, oh, we got a backlog of ideas, here's what we're going to do. Oh, I saw this post, it's about why you hate meetings so much. So let's do a Seeking Wisdom on how to run your company without meetings.

Speaker 2: Or how to run very few meetings that are super effective.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So first of all, I have the bullets from this post that I want to share with everybody but why did you feel the need to write a post? This is something that you said you thought about multiple companies, this always comes up. Why do you write a post at this stage of our company about meetings?

Speaker 2: Yeah. So I wrote this post yesterday because we're hitting that point in the company where it's like, there's no turning back, right? So we're around 30 people at Drift now, that's double of what we were at the beginning of the year and we'll probably double again this year at the very least. And so we're starting to grow and once you grow beyond that small group of people that have been together for a long time, meetings have a way, they're insidious, of creeping into the culture and once they're in, they're impossible to get out.

Speaker 1: Here's the intro to this post I wanted to pull it out. So this is a quick post to discuss something that's been on my mind for a long time. Generally, I'm a hater of meetings mostly because very few of them are run properly and because as a company grows, they seem to benefit only the people who just like to meet as opposed to the people who like to do.

Speaker 2: Boom. That's the truth.

Speaker 1: So what does that mean? Is it a certain type of person that's booking meetings a lot?

Speaker 2: Yeah. What I've noticed is in many companies that I have been a part of or associated with is that as they scale, as they grow, they start to, and if they don't get their meetings in check from the very beginning which is most companies, they seem to attract a certain class of people that are professionals at meetings, right? And they're professional at calling meetings, being in meetings most of their time, and basically organizing. Let's call it organizing. And so they sort of benefit those people and those people disproportionately have a louder voice over time within the company, because they're the ones running the meetings, sending the agendas, than the people that are actually closest to the customers and those that are doing.

Speaker 1: It's funny. So, okay. We're not going to tell you who it is, but we have somebody new starting at Drift. We'll share more soon, but he's hanging out here today and we told them this podcast, we're going to record. We'll share more coming soon. You know, we got to tease it a little bit.

Speaker 2: We got to tease it. Okay.

Speaker 1: So we were like, oh, we're going to go record this podcast on meetings. And he's like, man, I hate meetings. We made the right choice. But he said exactly what you just said. He's like people, every five, first five minutes of every meeting starts off with schmoozing. Sure to shit.

Speaker 2: Yeah, totally sure to shit, catch up, blah, blah, blah, talk, talk, talk, and there goes the whole meeting. The whole meeting gets derailed and there's nothing wrong with having time. And I think it's needed as a company, as people to socialize and to get to know each other. That's not at a meeting. That should not happen at a meeting, right? A meeting should be one, they should not happen very often, right? So they should be the exception, not the rule. When they do happen, I think we should have ground rules for those meetings to make them productive and I think there should be exactly what he mentioned that guests, that mystery person mentioned, which is like, let all meetings should start with an agenda.

Speaker 1: Yeah. All right. So you wrote, you kind of set out three, you said here are the three guardrails that you want to promote. Like, as we think about growing and having meetings at Drift, and maybe you talk to each one of them right now. So number one is try to minimize the number of meetings we have. See if you can get it done without a meeting.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So, that's the first rule. First rule of a meeting club is don't have any meetings, right? So try to minimize and try to push to the very edge of your comfort, putting off those meetings. So push as hard as you can and fight back tooth and nail, against meetings. When you do have a meeting, make sure that they're focused.

Speaker 1: What's the easiest, this is such an obvious question, I just want to hear you say it. What's the easiest way to avoid having a meeting?

Speaker 2: Talk to people, right. So people like to, let's go have a meeting, let's go in another room, to go at a certain time of day that we've put in the calendar and let's go talk. But why don't we just talk? Why don't you just ask me either over a messaging app like Drift or in person or over the phone? Just talk to them right then and there. Let's just get it done right now. Let's just learn how to communicate like humans.

Speaker 1: Unrelated. Do you think that the more autonomous and ownership employee, the more autonomy and ownership employees have, do you think that promotes less meetings? If you can make decisions on your own?

Speaker 2: It can, if you set the right, I think it's cultural. If you set the right culture from the very beginning and reinforce that day over day over day, then I think you can have a group of people, right? A team that can function without having many meetings. But I think creeping no matter what, like even if you have a large amount of autonomy, then all of a sudden you have splint, you have some groups that have a lot of meetings, some groups that don't have meetings. And I think that's fine. Every group can develop their cadence. But I think you should set up that culturally within the company early on.

Speaker 1: So that was the first guardrail, which is just try to minimize the number of meetings you have in the first place. Second guardrail. When you do have a meeting, please keep them small and focused on a clear agenda. Unless the meeting is a one- on- one, there should be a clear agenda and clear questions that we are trying to answer during the meeting.

Speaker 2: Boom. So we've talked about one- on- one in some previous podcasts, so we won't talk about them here. That's a different kind of meeting. That's a meeting that the person who's having, the one- on- one should be setting the agenda, not their manager, whoever they're having the meeting with. But in general, when you have a meeting, again you don't want to have meetings. But when you do, let's try to keep them as small as possible because I think the thing that is common is that people tend to invite more and more meetings. Oh, let's invite Dave. Well, Dave is not involved in this, but let's involve just in case. Maybe we might need Dave. So let's have him this meeting. No, let's not invite Dave. Let Dave focus on what he's doing. And let's just focus on as few people as possible in that meeting.

Speaker 1: That's a nice little parlay into this, into the third point, we actually had four inaudible. So the third point is respect your fellow employees, no sidebars, no laptops. What happens all the time is when you invite random people who don't need to meet there, then Bob just sits in the back corner on his laptop the whole time.

Speaker 2: And you know what happens if I'm in that meeting? What all I'm thinking about during the meeting is I'm going to walk over to Bob and I'm going to take his laptop and then smash it into pieces in the meeting. That's my daydream because it's so disrespectful to just sit in there, click clack, click clack, click clack on your keyboard or to sit on your phone, right?

Speaker 1: Not being in a meeting like that with you, I think you bring, and this is, I think more people could do this is bring a sense of urgency. Even if you're not leading the meeting, if it's not going where you want it to go, just say, hey, what are we doing? What are we trying to do? Can we wrap this up? What's the one question we're trying to answer. Can we get this done? Yeah.

Speaker 2: And I think, I forgot where I heard it. I heard this quote once, which is like in a movie. It's a great movie quote, but this is like the thought that I have in my head when I'm in a meeting. It's like I have a sense of urgency and it's, don't waste my bleeping time. Let's go.

Speaker 1: We have the explicit tag on this.

Speaker 2: Oh we have the explicit tag?

Speaker 1: Yeah. All right.

Speaker 2: Yeah. My mother bleeped in the time and let's keep this focus. And I think one thing that I didn't mention it in the last point, which is like, keep the meeting as small as possible is people are worried big and they invite a lot of people because they want to be transparent about what's going on in the meeting. Instead of inviting people, what we encourages share what you guys decided, what you decided on in that meeting with the entire company. We'll have full transparency. That doesn't mean that the people have to literally be in the room with you. But as soon as you leave that meeting, share with everyone that you can, everyone on your team, everyone affected whatever was decided in that meeting.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So like one of the things that we do at Drift for example, is even if somebody wasn't in that meeting, it's almost like, unless somebody took the action items out of that meeting and wrote them up on our Wiki and then shared them in Slack. It's almost as if that meeting didn't happen. So, hey, you don't have so, so you're doing both, right? You're not inviting people, but you're still sharing everything that happened.

Speaker 2: And we'll do different things. We'll share written notes of a meeting. We'll share sometimes audio notes, sometimes video. If we have someone come in and we video that, those notes, and a lot of times we just share photos of whiteboards of where decisions were made and we share those internally.

Speaker 1: Or even like you will take the deck that you present to our board and right? Like the whole company isn't at that meeting, we'll say, hey, here's the link to the board meeting. It went well, here's what we covered.

Speaker 2: Exactly.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: And so if anyone has questions, we can talk about that, but they don't have to be in the meeting.

Speaker 1: Exactly.

Speaker 2: We don't need to waste it.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And then the last guardrail is either participate or excuse yourself.

Speaker 2: Yeah. This is, I've seen some people pull this off really well, but it's very rare, which is like, if you are in those very few meetings that are very focused and have small number of people, even then, if you feel like you're not adding value to this meeting, I think Elias has done this well on our team sometimes, in a Elias kind of way. Well just get up and be like, I'm leaving this meeting because I'm not adding value to this thing. But I've seen other people do that very well. Excuse themselves. crosstalk No, like I'm going to excuse myself. I don't think I'm adding value to this meeting. Thanks for inviting me. I'm going to go off and do what I need to do. I think Dave has done it several times as well.

Speaker 1: Yeah, it depends. If I'm in a meeting and we start talking about engineering and we go too deep, I'm out.

Speaker 2: Yeah, what you do this week. I'm out. I'm out now.

Speaker 1: Just ask me when I'm filling up my coffee or something.

Speaker 2: Exactly. Not now.

Speaker 1: All right. So I got to ask you then, how to run a company without meetings. It sounds basically like a core value of this podcast. Just get up out of your chair, go over and talk to somebody.

Speaker 2: It's very simple. Get out, communicate. Communicate with that person or those people. Now in the age of Drift and Slack and messages and phone and all this kind of different ways that we can communicate, even less reason to have face- to- face meetings or even virtual meetings. Have as few, as many as possible, just get over, communicate and default to transparency in everything that you do. And you'll have less reasons to have a meeting.

Speaker 1: I love it. So before we sign off for today, I just wanted to mention this because this was, it was awesome this week. We had two people tweet at us and they say, hey, I was a Seeking Wisdom listener and now I am a paying Drift customer.

Speaker 2: Thank you.

Speaker 1: So I just wanted to shout our boy Henry and also Daniel this week. Cause that was amazing to see that.

Speaker 2: Much love. We get so much love every day from the Seeking Wisdom community. And this was just a little cherry on top this past week.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And maybe let's tell people like quickly about some of our plans for 2017. Like-

Speaker 2: Oh, we can't tell them.

Speaker 1: They're not really concrete, but what we want to do is we want to bring on a couple more guests.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Speaker 1: We don't want this to become an interview show.

Speaker 2: Nope.

Speaker 1: We want to keep it like this, but every now and then we might bring in a couple of guests.

Speaker 2: I think we've got our own little special twist and flavor that we want to bring to that format. And we want to bring in, just like Seeking Wisdom is kind of like a peek behind the scenes of the conversations we're having every day here. We're going to include other people that we're having conversations with, that you are may not have access to. And these aren't the same old people that appear on every single podcast you listen to. These are the people that are hardly out there, unknown players, heroes, legends that we're going to bring on and having them share some wisdom with you and with us.

Speaker 1: Yeah, and help keep us honest. One of the things, David sent me a message. He's like, I want to make sure that we keep Seeking Wisdom not like every other tech podcast. And so that means we're focused on health, wealth, life, learning, growth, those core values. So if you're listening, keep us honest. A, tell us the things you want to hear about. And B, tell us the people that you want to hear from because we know a couple of people and we can help make some of those things happen. And you know, year one of this podcast was amazing and year two, we want to make it even better.

Speaker 2: And if you're listening to this right now and you haven't subscribed, what is up?

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: Hit that subscribe button. It's free. It doesn't cost you anything. Hit the subscribe button. We need to climb them charts. We're taking over. We need to crack the top 10. And we're only going to make that happen with your help, the Seeking Wisdom community. We have some other stuff that we've been talking about today that we're planning for the end of the year that we're going to try to involve the entire Seeking Wisdom community in. And I think you guys are going to be excited.

Speaker 1: Indeed, in person. That's all in person.

Speaker 2: In person. It's going to be massive, huge festival type deal.

Speaker 1: All right. We're out of here.

Speaker 2: Five stars.

Speaker 1: Oh.

Speaker 2: what's going on? I need the five stars.

Speaker 1: Somebody wrote on iTunes. They said, I wish I could put a zero next to this. A five zero.

Speaker 2: Five zero stars. Let's go. All right. Five stars is 2017. Subscribe if you haven't, please. Emoji, prayer hands right now. Please subscribe. Five stars only. Don't forget about us. I know you haven't left a review yet. Yes, you. Get in there. Dave wrote a nice little guide for you. Let's leave a review. We still haven't cracked 200, but we're close. We're coming. Please leave a review for-

Speaker 1: Do me a favor. Tweet. Blow up DCs mentions. Tweet @ dcancel with how much that you hate meetings as well after you listen to this episode.

Speaker 2: Yap. Tag dcancel. Meetings suck. See you.

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