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updated 1/14/2013 12:19:23 PM ET 2013-01-14T17:19:23

Time is often the enemy of entrepreneurs. Countless lengthy troubleshooting meetings take away from the strategic planning needed to stay on the right track.

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It doesn't have to be this way.

Over the years, I've developed a method to keep status-update meetings as short as five minutes.

I call it the "five-minute stand-up," and it's about the questions that I expect an employee to have answers to if he or she stops me between meetings to give me an update.

The five-minute stand-up is all about creating a culture of accountability around your business that empowers your people to handle issues on their own without pushing decision making up the chain, because time is money.

Related: The Best Way to End a Meeting (Video)

An employee who doesn't get this might say, for example, "We lost last year's training receipts during our office move. What should we do about it?"

Instead, they should say, "We're on hold when it comes to determining return on investment for last year's training. That's because we lost last year's training receipts during our recent office move. I'll contact the training firms we used to get duplicate receipts, get us moving forward again on this by the end of the week."

The first statement would start a lengthy discussion. The second statement I can sign off on within five minutes, and off the employee goes.

So time-starved entrepreneurs, here is what you need to do to get your own troubleshooting meetings below five minutes:

  • Create a stoplight. Decide on a few code words that can serve as shortcuts for status reports. The stoplight is a great approach. Red equals: "On hold, not currently moving forward." Yellow is: "There might be an issue." Green is: "It's golden." When you're in a pinch and you only have five minutes, you can say, "What is red and why?"

    Related: 7 Deadly Sins of Business Meetings
     
  • Have clear annual goals and objectives. Before hearing what's wrong, I want to know what goal it's affecting. That's subtle, but it's important. Sometimes when a little fire flares up, people tend to chase the little granular fire. They forget what it's connected to or what impact it's having on the bigger picture. From my perspective, why should I be listening to a problem if it has nothing to do with my goals?
     
  • Tell me what's not great and why. Don't just tell me there's a yellow or red light on something. Tell me why, because I don't have time to investigate it on my own.
     
  • Tell me what's being done about it. Too many small-business owners allow their people to push all the problems on them. That's unacceptable. My job as a business owner is to hold that bigger picture, so don't even get me on the horn without solutions. If you come in with the list of options, I can sign off on one.
     
  • Give me a fix date. I expect an ETF, an "estimated time of fix." By then, I require to have received another update that the issue went from red to green. Then we're good.

Besides keeping meetings short, this system also lends itself well to mapping out tasks, and how they are moving core goals forward.

Consider trying this method. If you're not managing the way your people and associates solve the micro problems, then you're probably the one doing all the solving. When that happens, then you're not doing the big-picture stuff, such as trying to boost sales and promote the brand of your business.

Related: What I Learned About Great Meetings from Steve Jobs

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