The Carousel Culture Podcast

We work hard to create an amazing company culture. Listen as we explore the subtle details of what makes Carousel an amazing place to work!

EP009 - Meeting Etiquette with Chris Brama

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JJ Parker: All right, Chris Brahma, welcome to the carousel culture pod.

Chris Brama: Good to be here, JJ. is.

JJ Parker: You, you wanted to talk about something interesting to me, which I thought is like, um, it's hard to kind of like codify into. Like a document or a policy. So this is definitely one of those like cultural norm things. Um, but this is like, how do we run meedings?

Chris Brama: Yes, that is a good question.

JJ Parker: that's kind of like general norms around how we scheduled meetings. Who's involved in a meeting. Is there an agenda for a meeting? And then like, how do you act in a meeting? I would

Chris Brama: Yes. Yeah. And they, every one of those has really sort of taken, um, An interesting turn given the last two years and the importance of them when you, uh, are following good practices and, uh, how obvious it is, or maybe not obvious unless someone calls you out. Um, you know, yeah. So let's dive into this.

JJ Parker: Well it's okay. So let's, let's let's first start with just like medians in general. Like you, my friend have, are in an insane amount of meetings, like as it on your calendar, I'm like, holy crap. This is like back to back all day long.

Chris Brama: alone. Yeah.

So one thing that we can do to be kind to everyone that we work with internally and externally is allowing a five. Uh, window, uh, in between booking. Um, so when we, we know someone is finishing at the top of the hour, rather than just booking them immediately, um, just giving them just a couple of minutes, um, to

JJ Parker: Yeah. Um, I'm not sure if everyone does this. I certainly do this when I'm trying to like, have a meeting with someone else spy on their calendar. And I think for our organization, everyone's calendars like publicly seeable like, all right, internally, seeable.

Chris Brama: Yep.

JJ Parker: so yeah, just being mindful of like, not over whelming, your colleagues as I could, because it could tip, um, I've heard things like, well, meetings are funny because it's like, um,

Chris Brama: um,

JJ Parker: how are you?

Are you ever in meetings that are just like, not necessary? Like, Hey, this meeting could have been any.

Chris Brama: might have an email. Yes.

JJ Parker: That sounds like I was trying to make you

Chris Brama: Yeah.

JJ Parker: out or something. I'm not trying to do that.

Chris Brama: Uh, yeah, that, that can happen. that.

can certainly happen. Um, and yeah, there's, there's maybe the, uh, the qualifier, I think it's helpful. Um, when you're deciding whether or not we should do a meeting or is this something that can didn't happen just, uh, you know, uh, using John Riley's language, Acer synchronously, like just through any like an Email

JJ Parker: Email or slack, right?

Chris Brama: Yeah.

Cause it, um, when you're using all of these different mediums, when you're scared, you're trying to schedule time with people or get their attention. It's sort of like, it's sort of like a waterfall. And the expectations are maybe a little different. So depending on which medium you're choosing to communicate with your colleagues on, um, you know, you're going to kind of, uh, whether you intend to or not, uh, make them feel like they need to respond to you immediately.

If you're sending something on slack. Um, because slack is just so easy and convenient. So when we choose to use slack, we should consider. The type of requests that we're sending and understand that it better be really quick and easy for someone to respond fast. Um, and if it is going to require a little bit more than that, then that's maybe that's maybe where you start to consider a meeting or perhaps a more detailed email.

And I would say the. The thing that has worked really well for me is, uh, if we're going to have to discuss and make several decisions, uh, then we should probably have a meeting. Um, if it is just informational, I just want to inform you about something and make you aware. We probably don't need to have to have a meeting where I

JJ Parker: Yeah. Do an email or do a screen taxi or some something, right?

Chris Brama: right on screen taxi is a, is a very effective way to.

JJ Parker: One of the things I've seen the engineering team do, like, but I don't think the rest of us do is like they will create slack channel. Um, for specific projects, which I think is like a really interesting way to do like, kind of like an asynchronous meeting.

Like, Hey, we need to discuss a topic. But instead of having it like mixed in with a bunch of like individual DMS, or like even like a group slack message, it's like, Nope, we'll spin up like

Chris Brama: like

JJ Parker: a slack channel just for this project. Everyone chats about it in there. And then it like gets deleted.

Chris Brama: yeah, that's pretty cool.

JJ Parker: That might be like something else.

Other people in the company could like take, like, uh, take that technique and use it for their own projects.

Chris Brama: That's really, that's really cool to hear that, uh, kudos to whomever on the engineering team came up with that idea. That's awesome.

JJ Parker: Um, so, uh, say we decided we have to have a meeting, right? Like you've got a bunch of decisions. You got to hash it out in real time. Boom. There's a meeting. We all hop in a zoom room, right.

Chris Brama: Um,

JJ Parker: What sh how, how should we keep, how should we like queue up that meeting? How should we make sure everyone's prepared for that meeting and how should we make sure, like, uh, we accomplish what we want to accomplish.

Chris Brama: Yes. Um, so I think we're speaking to agenda and we're also speaking to, uh, awareness of how we're presenting ourselves and how we're coming across. So. I know that in most of tools that Are out there for video conferencing, you, have the ability to check yourself before you, before you join.

Uh, and we're all human and we're all dealing with a lot of things, um,

JJ Parker: are you talking about check yourself? Like, like

Chris Brama: like,

JJ Parker: my hair doesn't look like a crazy person. Is that what you're saying?

Chris Brama: yeah, or your background, you know, like I, I've got a couple of young kids, so, um, from time to time, you know, I'm just, I won't, I won't be able to pick up, pick it all up all the time. So I'll just throw a background, um, on my, my zoom, it's really easy to do it and you know, and then that way I'm not distracting anybody else, who's trying to listen to the agenda because they're looking at a couple of dolls.


JJ Parker: You're adorable. Kids are no distraction.

Chris Brama: Yeah.


yeah. Yes. Um, but you know, like just consider like where you're taking the call sometimes, like, you know, it just works out where for whatever reason, you're in a bedroom and that's okay. Um, but maybe you throw a filter on, cause not everybody's. Not, everyone's excited to see someone's bedroom.

They just want to pay attention to you and the important things that you're trying to convey in that meeting. So that's, that's just a couple of illustrations of like, before that, before you hop in, just make sure that your equipment is good. Um, you know, for example, today, before I even started our podcast, um, it turned out that I had to use a different browser to access.

So it's just important to do a little tool check, make sure that your background is, is looking, looking well, these are all things we can control and that's always sort of like something that we should bear in mind. If you can control it, you should take that minute to consider and just, you know, check, check that box.

So, um, agendas. Yeah. Uh, you know, when you start a meeting, uh, it's nice to be able to start it on. Because that's the one thing we're never getting back is our time. So when we do a lot of small talk, that's fine, we're humans. We should talk to each other, we should catch up. Um, but I think we should try to make best efforts just in this virtual world to, um, keep that to a minimum so that we can let everybody get back to their day to day and their agendas and the important things they have to tackle.

So just quickly, you know, getting into the agenda and then. Uh, asking everyone if they have anything to add to it after you go through said agenda. Um, I think, uh, I think we should get comfortable. We don't want, we don't currently do this, but it would be, I think this would be a good challenge is if we don't have an agenda in a meeting, we should maybe consider not accepting the meeting.

JJ Parker: Yes. Yeah. Actually, I think there's been spikes of that kind of around our company here and there. Like, uh, I remember, you know, saying years ago, like, Hey, I'm not showing up to any meeting, unless there's an agenda right now. It's kind of this just like the minimum requirement to get me on a meeting. Right.

Because if you haven't thought about what this meeting's about, then you probably haven't thought enough about the meeting,

Chris Brama: No

JJ Parker: Whether, you know, it's not really our style tone, mandate things like you must have an agenda, but I agree if you can put out an agenda before and it doesn't have to be like super formal, it just looks like, Hey, yo, these are like the four things we need to get through.

Chris Brama: Yeah. Right.

JJ Parker: Easy.

Chris Brama: Exactly. Yeah, because then everyone else who's coming to that meeting, um, is going to be prepared. Cause they'll look at it and they'll already be thinking about, uh, that those topics they'll, they'll have more insights versus putting them on the spot.

Cause Right.

now, if you just jammed an agenda at me yeah. I'll do my best to give you good responses. But if I knew about the agenda prior, I would have thought through it and prepare it.

JJ Parker: Yeah. Again, even like sometimes writing that stuff is hard or kind of like tedious, but just like recording yourself, like, Hey, the meeting coming up is going to be about blah, blah, blah.

Chris Brama: of wine.

Just like

JJ Parker: Verbally saying it, sending the link over so people can just watch the video super effective way to prep your colleagues.

Let me ask you this, Chris. Um, how many mediums are you at where there's like, it seems like there's too many people in the meeting. Like, did we need all 12 people here are good. This has been taken care of with two of us.

Chris Brama: that can happen. Um, I th I would say that it's not happening very frequently. Um,

JJ Parker: Like we're pretty tight about that.

Chris Brama: here in 2022. Yeah, Um, yeah, I would say. You know, it, it can happen from time to time, but it's not that frequent. Like I think most of us are pretty good about, Hey, if we're going to have this meeting, it's going to be to make a decision.

Like we're going to talk through something that is not easy to transmit with it, with an email.

JJ Parker: So let's talk about that. Like the outcome of a meeting, right? Like we have an agenda, but obviously like, we need an outcome because like you said, some meetings are semi informational. Right. And those can maybe just get moved to be in a video or an email, but the sale sometimes it's like, Hey, here's some of our information and there's going to be a discussion that that's the point of the meeting, right.

Or the meeting might be like, Hey, we need to make a decision. So we're going to talk over some facts.

Chris Brama: and

JJ Parker: Make a decision. Right. Um, so I think like being intentional about what kind of meeting or having

Chris Brama: yes.

JJ Parker: to me.

Chris Brama: Yeah. Uh, yeah. Cause if it's a working session, you know, you really should on the front end, make sure someone is capturing, uh, capturing that dialogue in those decisions as you're, as you're going

JJ Parker: Yeah. Sometimes do you have like a designated note taker?

Chris Brama: we don't announce that Like, formally or assign it. It's usually sort of. Informal unspoken kind of

JJ Parker: Right. Well, like in our, in our leadership meetings, one of us ends up kind of doing it, but we don't, we're not explicit about it, but all of our leadership medians have agendas and notes after.

Chris Brama: Yes. Very helpful. Because when you're about to go into that next one, or, you know, the next ones. You can reflect back and just catch yourself up And go. Yep. I'm ready. I'm ready for the discussion today. So I find that helpful

JJ Parker: sometimes medians while some, a lot of medias I'm involved in at least, um, are a lot of times like the result is just brainstorming or ideas. So that there's not an exact decision or, or walk away action. Sometimes it's just like, Hey, we just got a riff on somebody.

Chris Brama: Pulling on this thread. I, I really, I really kind of liked that. And just, if I can kind of go down that path with you a little bit, I think it would be helpful if we were always setting up the meetings with the desired outcome right. On the front end. So then that way everyone knows like, Hey, my staff, my steering off, off the path here, or are we on the path?

Uh, kind of keep everybody just sort of on track and just, it probably manage time, time, better to.

JJ Parker: Yeah. Cause sometimes media is don't feel like, like, oh, we had an hour long meeting and it felt like we just wandered around in the woods for awhile.

Chris Brama: but yeah. Yeah. Unless That's your thing, right? Um,

JJ Parker: Um, yeah, sometimes we just want to be lost for a while. So the other thing you said is kind of like no one we're done, right. Um, sometimes mediums are scheduled like blocked for an hour.

Chris Brama: or.

JJ Parker: And like projects or meetings seem to just fill the time they're allotted, right? Like if you have an hour median magically that the meeting lasts a whole hour, but if you have a half hour meeting magically, everything gets done in a half hour.

If you have a 15 minute meeting, magically, everything is done in 15 minutes. Right. So I think like choosing the timeframe that you're blocking. Meetings out for is really important. And I would challenge everyone to try to make their meeting blocks as short as possible and see if they can get it done in a shorter cause no, no.

One's sitting around like, oh, you know what? I wish I had more of today meetings. Right.

Chris Brama: yeah, unless you work in the government, like yeah.

JJ Parker: So really like.

Chris Brama: like

JJ Parker: Block off the meeting, have the meeting. If you've accomplished the goal, adjourn, the meeting, right? Like immediate it's done early. Sweet. Everyone can move on, like no need to, to fill dead air time. Right?

Chris Brama: build that airtight. Yes. Yeah. I would being comfortable with the fact that you're not going to use all the time. That is okay.

JJ Parker: Yep. Cool. Well, this was a good start on meeting etiquette. I feel like we could probably talk another, like 15 minutes about it, but we'll leave up for, uh, for the next episode.

Chris Brama: Sounds good. Thanks, JJ.

JJ Parker: All right. We'll catch you in the next meeting.

Chris Brama: All right. Cheers.