14 October 2009 • 7:00 am

The Importance of Pre-Meeting Meetings

I spoke on the phone with someone this morning who has had tremendous success getting leadership buy-in from multiple levels in a large organization. As he shared his story, he reminded me of something that seems like overkill but that contributes to successful change initiatives: having meetings before the meeting.

Having pre-meetings is far different from having post-meetings. Post-meetings happen because not everything that needed to be said came out during the actual meeting, due to fear, mainly. Pre-meetings are held to make sure that what needs to happen in the actual meeting actually happens.

What do I mean by the actual meeting (herein referred to as the Meeting)?  The Meeting is where people with crazy schedules (usually in leadership positions) somehow find a way to meet all at the same time. The topic for the Meeting, in whole or in part, is your change initiative.

To make the best use of the team’s time during the Meeting, only do the things in the Meeting that need to be done together as a team.Focus the team on the task at hand, whether it is a discussion about solutions or whether a decision must be made. Everything else should be done beforehand in pre-meetings with individuals or small groups.

Some of the things you can take care of in pre-meetings are:

  • Training
  • Seeking opinions, to see how each person is leaning
  • Answering questions, since some will not ask in front of the rest of the team
  • Target key people to speak up during the meeting
  • Persuade people who need persuading

Notice that I’m not talking about a pre-meeting e-mail. This is a real sit-down (or phone call if necessary) meeting where you are preparing individuals for the Meeting (and also helping you prepare for the Meeting). If the Meeting and its desired outcome are really important to the success of your change initiative, an e-mail is not going to cut it.

Having pre-meetings may seem like overkill, or even like playing politics. But, if you’ve ever been in a leadership team meeting that has careened out of control or that has become stuck on an irrelevant or minute point, most likely there was not enough preparation of the attendees beforehand.

Take the time to have pre-Meeting meetings so you can focus the Meeting on achieving the desired outcome for your initiative.

(Editor’s note: This post first appeared in the Change Starts Here blog at

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