In my last post, I noted my belief that culture is really the collective experience that each individual has with a company. And that culture is the most immediately leverageable asset to effect positive change in an organization.

I would now suggest that the “meeting” or, more accurately, the intentional and carefully curated meeting, is the fastest way to affect an individual’s experience within the organization. And, as I learned a few weeks ago at SHE Summit, this is particularly true when seeking to unleash the potential for female leaders.  I’ll explain.

Meetings ARE the currency of corporate America. Depending the source you look at, Americans spend anything from 35% to 50% of their day in a meeting (feels like more to me.)  There are about 25 million meetings each day in America. So, essentially, the meeting equals the work experience.

67% of those meetings are considered to be unproductive.  92% of respondents confessed to multitasking in meetings and 49% admitted to “other” work while in the meeting. I suspect that your personal experience in meetings would support this. Remote meetings compound these negative effects because so much information is picked up via non-verbal communication (in my view, most of the important stuff.)

Why wouldn’t you design that experience in the same way as you would design a customer experience using similar levels of deliberate intention?

In the industries in which I have worked and been associated with, nothing defines the experience that an employee has with a company quite like a meeting.  It seems to be what most people spend their time doing.  And, sadly, how they define their perceived importance within that organization.

So, given that time is an ever-expiring resource and that, for the most part, employees are trading for a pay check, how you run meetings may be one the most important operational decisions you can make.

Viewed through this lens, “how” you operate is even more important than those “why” values that took months of naval-gazing to determine.  The “how” makes the “why” real, experientially. What’s the point in having a value like “respect for the individual,” when you disrespect that individual’s valuable time by endorsing poorly run meetings with ill-prepared agenda and a tenor that can exclude the voices of those you’ve asked to attend, however unintentional that is.

Moreover, a well-planned and executed meeting may hold at least one key to helping unlock the potential of women within the organization. In Joanne Lipman’s book, That’s What She Said, she has written a great 12-point cheat sheet; the first two are “Interrupt the Interrupters” and “Use amplification and brag buddies.”  The latter being a great technique to amplify an originator of an idea to ensure that it is heard, registered and the appropriate credit is given.  It was reinforced to me as recently as yesterday just how significant and pervasive this challenge is.  What is also interesting about these top 2 recommendations are they are both best, maybe only, applied within the context of a meeting.

I have no doubt that deliberately curating your meetings with planning, standards and minimally-invasive protocol will unleash more of everyone’s latent power, but especially women. More importantly, you can do it NOW.  And, it just seems that everything else is going to take too long.

To quote Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Where you are is probably in a meeting.  What you have is lots of meetings, so do what you can, right now, to make them more powerful.