How to Make Better Decisions With Async Meetings

Hans-Kristian Bjerregaard
May 09, 2023
5 min read

The best value add of any leader is to make a small number of high quality decisions. In fact the quality of your business is the sum of all you decisions.

But the way we work today does not provide the environment our brain needs to make high quality decisions. We simply have to little time and to many distractions.

Luckily async meetings are great at making calmer and better decisions.

In a synchronous meeting I get peoples reaction, in an asynchronous meeting I get their reflection.

Matt Mullenweg, Founder of WordPress & Automattic

In this article we will show how you can make higher quality decisions without spending more time or resources:

Why in person meetings are bad for high-quality decisions

First the problem: Our brains are powerful reasoning engines but they require time and focus in order to work things through. Those things are rare in the modern workplace.

Traditional meetings don't cut it. If you bring a team together for a 1-2 hour brainstorm meeting you rarely get anyones best ideas. Lets examine why:

You don't have any real time to think

We humans are social creatures and hate silence. So if someone presents you a point or asks you a question you will answer within seconds. That means that all ideas made this way have not had more than a few seconds to be made. You react instead of reflect.

You don't use the best parts of your brain

1-2 hours is not enough time for you brain to come up with it's best ideas. In the meeting you can only use your conscious part of your brain. But some of it's greatest powers are in its subconscious parts that you can't activate in a meeting.

You subconsciousness takes time to kick in

That is the power of it. That is why you so often see that good ideas pop up in the days after the brainstorm. This then leads to a confusing work environment where you adjust and amend the decisions made in the meeting over a ton of different chats, emails and conversations. This often results in yet another meeting to re-align and the cycle starts over.

All this leads to a chaotic and unstructured decision-making process and this does not yield the best decisions you and your team can make.

Async meetings supports your brains best decision making

As you can see, the modern work environment does not fit your brains decision-making process.

But with new technologies come new possibilities. With the rise of remote work more asynchronous ways of working has come to light - including the async meeting.

How async meetings work

We have written a in depth intro to running async meetings but here is the short recap:

  1. An asynchronous (async) meeting works just like a regular meeting except all participants do not have to be present at the same time.
  2. Instead of meeting in a room, call or video meeting you use a tool (like Workjoy) to run the meeting. It could also be a tool like a document but the more specialized for the task the easier it is for your team to use and succeed.
  3. You write a good introduction so everyone know what the meeting is about and how they can best contribute.
  4. You set a clear time-frame for the meeting eg. from next Monday to Friday in 2 weeks.
  5. You then use chat to go back and fourth with you arguments giving you time plenty of time to reflect before answering.
  6. After the meeting you highlight the decisions and set the action items to be done.

Setting up your team for success

The success of any meeting is determined before the meeting is held. This is where you as the meeting lead set up your team for success (or failure). The most common reason for bad meetings is poor or no preparation by the meeting lead.

You can not invest too much time in setting you team up for success.

Before you invite others to your meeting, spend time writing a good meeting memo outlining:

  1. Give the meeting a meaningful full title - not just a date or who is having the meeting. Steer people in the direction of what you want them to focus on.
  2. Give them the proper context for the decision to be made:
    1. Why do we need to make this decision?
    2. What leads up to this?
    3. What are your key insights they should have to make a good decision?
    4. Why are each of them here? Name specifically what made you select each person for this decision. Be careful with selecting the right people. Know exactly what you want from each so you don't waste anybody time. Too few make you miss out on key insights but too many creates to much noise.
  3. Lay out your recommendation and alternative options. Don't beat around the bush. If you already have an idea then present it up front with its strengths and weaknesses. Open up for other opinions by listing alternatives to your idea thus showing that you are open to a debate.

Set a clear time-frame

Set when the meeting start and ends. This allows you team to know your expectations for when you want the decision made so the discussion don't go on forever.

Be the great moderator

When the meeting start be the first to write in chat to set of the discussion and inviting your team to join in.

Running a async meeting as a meeting lead is all about moderating and steering the discussion through thoughtful questions.

It is your job to get the right info out of the meeting participants so you can make the best decision.

Accept and encourage that people take time before replying so they can reflect rather than just reacting to what others say. Some of the best insights can easily take a day or two of work in a person subconscious before manifesting as a clear idea.

As the meeting unfolds you add insights to the meeting agenda as notes and decisions and add action items to be done after the meeting.

Make the meeting great to follow up on

After the meeting has come to a conclusion you need to brush it up. Make sure the decisions are clearly stated, the most important insights highlighted and the right action items are assigned the right people and followed up upon.

The worst thing is for the meeting to be forgotten and thus pointless.

If you use Workjoys meetings then all of this is taken care of for you.

Make your team love mondays!

Get a demo or try for free today.