The unique facet of a meeting is that you have all the people that matter in a room together, and you can eyeball them.
This means that you can really get a sense of the nuances, politics and potential commitment of all the key players. You can ask the difficult questions and get back not just answers but promises.
What usually goes wrong in meetings is that people use them for getting promises on the detail rather than promises on the higher-level questions, questions such as:
> “What’s the general approach?”
> “If it’s this vs. this, what wins?”
> “Who are we most out to satisfy here?”
> “What’s more important here, quality or cost, and where is the line before that answer changes?”
These are the sky-level questions, built on strategic thinking and the knowledge of the bigger picture. Using meetings to establish and revisit these kinds of questions is key.
Let the promises and guidance from sky-level, strategic issues steer the direction of operational decisions without the need for another meeting. So many meetings focus on the ground-level details, when detail is much better delegated to one individual than discussed in committees.
Done well, these kinds of meetings should be intense rollercoasters of emotion, conflict, compromise and heated argument, led by skillful questioning and listening.