Market musings

Best Practices for SMB Growth: Fewer Meetings, More Conversations

by Sasha Viasasha
January 17, 2018

Coordinated efforts make all the difference between productivity and wasted effort. When you can rely on employees to keep operations running smoothly, you can tackle the bigger issues facing your business.

After years of research and scores of business surveys, the Project Management Institute has come up with practical advice for coordinating more effective meetings across town or across continents.

The BLISS strategy sums up 5 best practices for keeping your distributed teams on track with shorter, more productive meetings. BLISS stands for:

  • Be Efficient
  • Look Back – Look Forward
  • Insist on Accountability
  • Simplify the Agenda
  • Stay Focused

Be Efficient

Efficiency is all about reducing costs and simplifying problems. First of all, invite the absolute minimum of team members to each meeting. When you have shorter, more frequent conversations with relevant team members, you won’t need to invite as many people, which also saves time. No one should be in the meeting if they don’t have something to add. If people are just there to receive information, that would be better handled by text or email.

Google famously has a limit of 8 people per meeting as a way to ensure that everyone in the meeting is an active participant. When a group decision has to be made, send the supporting documents ahead of time and narrow down the options on the call. Other stakeholders can review the conclusions and weigh in on when they have time.

Assign a time keeper and strictly adhere to the schedule as a show of respect for the value of everyone’s time. Set an alarm to alert the team with 5 minutes is left before the scheduled end time.

Look Back – Look Forward

Quick status meetings get out of control when team members try to cover too much ground. “Look back – look forward” means only cover issues within immediate time frame (such as +/- 2 weeks). Longer term items can be handled in a written report. Think context and next steps only.

Before the call, have a desired action in mind at the close and assign someone to be responsible for followup. Too many businesses lose sales and momentum to lack of follow up, so excelling in following up can be your stealth super-power.

Insist on Accountability

This is closely related to follow up, but it is really about establishing a culture of accountability so team members watch out for each other. It builds cohesiveness while it maintains project schedules. If someone is unable to meet a deadline, ask them to set a new one and call on the team to help. Automation is ideal for keeping the team updated on which tasks need to be completed by when and making sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Simplify the Agenda

Simplify, simplify and simplify some more. Solving some problems often makes others irrelevant. Choose only the top two or three and see where that takes you next.

By reducing the number of items you try to handle at once, you can look into each one with greater care and precision. Move quickly through the meeting with a detailed agenda covering fewer topics. Include a goal for each topic (such as resolve customer issue), approximate times, and task owners. No one should come to the meeting surprised about the topics discussed.

Set deadlines and review task ownership. Send out an post-call email to reiterate next steps.

Stay Focused

As you meet more frequently, team members will feel less pressure to bring up issues that are off topic while they have your attention. Do not allow team members to drift off on tangents that dilute your productivity. The “parking lot” is the place for ideas that need to be addressed at a later time or in a different format. Make sure the team knows early on that status meetings must stick to a hard time limit and that parking lot issues will be handled separately. The corollary is that parking lot issues must be handled soon after the call or team members will lose faith in the value of this tool.

Tools for building relationships

A phone call can be the ideal problem resolution tool when your team uses it to address critical issues briefly and you have productivity software to back it up. Phone calls facilitate the rapid flow of information, as well as instant backchannel, feedback and adjustment, helping people communicate easily. For building relationships, ideation and collaboration, it is essential. However, one of the drawbacks of a phone call has been the inability to easily save, share and search voice communications after the call.

As voice and digital channels converge, a new suite of tools is finding its way into the smartphone ecosystem. Digital tools allow users to save, clip and share pertinent notes from a call for follow-up, as well as the ability to capture and transcribe a phone call, or important exchange, creating a searchable text that can be easily shared or saved.

The conversation engine

Spoke Phone is a next generation business phone solution designed to be deployed across your mobile phone infrastructure. It delivers the core features that a business needs to maintain a professional operation, including:

  • Universal call log and smart phone directory
  • Mobile-to-mobile call transfer and extension dialing
  • DDI line and global geo-call routing
  • Team calling and smart notes for saving and sharing
  • HD voice for better call quality
  • Live presence and availability setting 

Spoke Phone can help you transform the phones you and your team are already using into a powerful enterprise-grade phone system, for a fraction of the cost and effort.

You will never have to:

  • Waste time tracking down people or phone numbers
  • Hassle with complex phone trees and menus
  • Lose valuable call data or contact information
  • Give out your personal phone number or ask employees to do so 

Want to learn more? Sign up for an interactive demo and see how much more effective and productive your company could be with a phone system designed for the way you live and work.