In the 17 years I've been doing business, one thing I've learned is that the things that look spontaneous—especially when it comes to being strategic—are generally pretty planned.
Meetings definitely fall under that umbrella.
Since I founded The Coaching Institute in 2004, I've run a lot of meetings. In the early days of the school, I used to run them for every department every single day. I always made an effort to make it fun and it looked spontaneous, but the goal was to have a full strategy locked and loaded.
It's like the line lawyers will tell you: Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. Same thing applies—Never go into a meeting without knowing what the proposed end game is.
If you're tempted to wing it, think about the excruciating times you've sat at a wedding listening to an unprepared best man crashing and burning because he thought his natural raconteur skills and insider knowledge of the happy couple would see him through.
So, with formal meetings I'm thinking a week ahead, always, minimum, about what it is I need to get out of it. I take time ahead of the day to talk casually with people involved about the topics to be covered. I pre-frame it and pre-launch the concepts, if you like. Test the waters, see what is thrown up for people and how they respond.
That means when we come to the meeting, there's no surprises and people have an idea about what we'll be talking about. I walk into the room knowing the bases are covered, I've thought through about what the key messaging needs to be.
And the key messaging is never, "Hey, how are you doing, what shall we talk about?"
That's something I would never do. It never happens in my meetings. It should never happen in yours—if you're the business owner or team leader or someone who wants leadership responsibilities, be the person who thought ahead about what has to happen to set up a really successful meeting in the future.
And while you're thinking about next week, think about next month too. Why not? All the seeds you're planting now will pay off in the weeks and months and years ahead. Everything is connected. Every decision you make, every decision you don't.
But while you can never be too prepared ahead of time with a clear agenda, don't go through it line by line in the meeting. Be confident and mentally organised and have the agenda in the back of your mind like a natural leader.
Tick off, 'They're the goals we're wanting to hit, that's the target we're going for, that's the narrative we want to achieve.'
Meetings are just part of what I know is the power of taking care of every piece of the puzzle when it comes to business.
I'm one of those people who doesn't leave things to chance. Success is about creating the structure and not getting into the reaction mode.
If you feel yourself getting into that mindset where it's, 'What's the next thing that needs to be done?', take time to pause and step back, reassess whether you're doing the things that give you the critical mass you need for your business.
Make sure you're using the smallest hinge to swing the biggest door. Find a way to be as effective and efficient as you possibly can. Take a day or two to revisit your purpose. Then rock forth.