Jeremy Burrows writes this section from Goburrows.com.
I hate meetings. Long or short, large or small, food or no food, outside or inside, morning or afternoon — doesn’t matter.
Meetings drain the life out of me, and I’m guessing most of you feel the same. How can Executive Assistants make their Executives more productive? Make sure their meetings don’t take up too much time!
There’s even a book called, Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold.
Unfortunately, meetings often resort to nothing more than a group of unproductive people sitting around a table with other unproductive people, discussing how they wish everyone else would be more productive.
It’s no wonder we hate meetings.
Choose Your Meetings Carefully
I could go on about how meetings are a waste of time and site research on why we should eliminate most meetings, but I’ll save that for another day.
Today’s post is about one crucial meeting that, if lead well, can be the most productive meeting on the calendar — the one-on-one meeting between an assistant and their Executive.
As much as meetings can be an energy-suck, this meeting is necessary. It’s the most important meeting of your week.
No team can have a more positive — or negative — impact on an organisation than an assistant and their Executive – if they’re on the same page. A regular, weekly meeting helps an executive and an assistant stay productive, work together, and be strategic about what’s ahead.
In an ideal scenario, you should meet with your Executive once a week for about an hour. Some weeks you’ll need to meet for 1.5–2 hours (like after a vacation or extended holiday). Other weeks you’ll only need 10 or 20 minutes.
Ideally, this meeting takes place in person. That said, a phone, FaceTime, WebEx, or Skype call is ok from time to time — or it may have to be all the time if you are a virtual or remote assistant.
I recommend having this weekly meeting at the beginning of your workweek, in the first half of the day. This helps you both prioritise what you’re going to work on that week.
I also recommend you leave a margin for a quick 10– 15-minute phone call in the middle of the week and one at the end of the week as well. It’d be a good idea to put these sync-ups on the calendar so you don’t forget about them.
What To Talk About?
One of the most painful workplace experiences is showing up to a meeting with no agenda. We can’t let that happen when we meet with our Executive – or anyone else for that matter. We should never schedule a meeting with no agenda.
A simple way to build your meeting agenda is to ask your Executive to email your agenda items as they come up. You don’t need to reply to these emails but can instead compile the items into a list. Then, about 24 hours before each meeting, you can send your Executive the agenda items for the next day’s meeting.
During the meeting, you can pull the list up and ask your Executive about each item, one by one, in a rapid-fire manner. As they explain what needs to happen, you can take notes on any pertinent details.
Don’t spend too much time on each item. Simply clarify what needs to be done, who is responsible for making it happen, and when it needs to be done. Then move on to the next item.
At the end of the meeting — or by the end of that day at the latest — you should send your Executive a list of any specific action items and deadlines he or she needs to focus on the rest of that week.
Keep It Simple
There are hundreds of tools you can use to organise agenda items or meeting notes. Feel free to use whichever tool you and your Executive prefer, as long as it’s simple. In other words, neither of you should spend more time organising agenda items than it takes to complete those same items.
I prefer a simple, two-column google sheet. You can get a copy of my template here. It’s simple but very effective.
My former boss and I used this template, or a variation of it, for 5+ years. My current boss and I use it as well.
Within the sheet, I’ve included instructions and examples on how you can use it.
Of course, you can do all of the above but still not get anything done — if your Executive doesn’t pay attention during the meeting. So encourage them to stay focused! If it’s a phone call meeting, ask them not to scroll through Instagram or Facebook during the call. If it’s in person, initiate a no-phone rule. If you have your Executive’s full attention, your meetings are shorter and far more productive.
Try this out for a few weeks, and let me know how it goes! I’m confident you’ll be more productive and maybe even hate meetings less. Well, this meeting, at least.
Of course, you could implement your newfound meeting strategy and tool in all the other meetings you and your Executive have to attend. Go ahead, try it out. What’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps you’ll realise you don’t even need half of the meetings on your calendar?
If that ends up being the case… you’re welcome. 🙂