The Matt Mochary Playbook: Transforming Meetings into a Competitive Advantage

June 21, 2024

The Matt Mochary Playbook: Transforming Meetings into a Competitive Advantage

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OpenAI, Coinbase, Notion, and Bolt are all prime examples of top 1% venture-backed startups of the past decade. Interestingly, they all have one thing in common – they’re a product of Matt Mochary’s leadership coaching. 

Mochary is known for breaking down seemingly complex goals – such as team-wide accountability, transparent feedback, and relentless execution – into tactical changes that you can make in day-to-day operations. His approach allows employees to securely drive improvement over time, rather than in one-off sprints. Among these changes, one stands out as a particularly mundane, but important one – rethinking your approach to meetings.

Every team leader knows that there is a fine line between a productive meeting and a colossal time sink. To keep the latter to a minimum, Mochary has identified 8 key steps that companies can implement to turn their meetings into a strategic advantage. Let’s break them down. 

1. Every meeting needs a clear owner 

Typically, employees can tell when a topic requires a meeting. All they have left is to schedule a time and place. This is where most meetings fall off. If no one is appointed to make the meeting happen, individuals tend to hold off taking the lead. An efficient solution to this problem is assigning a Meeting Owner – someone who can own both the logistics and the agenda of the meeting. This approach will ensure your team’s time is spent in a structured, efficient manner that drives your company forward.

2. Determine the desired outcome 

Defining an actual, measurable goal should be the Meeting Owner’s first task. Most meetings miss this foundational step, leading to wasted time and empty conversations. Go back to the issue that prompted the meeting – for instance, a new product launch – and identify the desired resolution in a clear, concise manner. Then share this information in writing with every potential participant. This will help them enter the meeting with the right mindset and determine whether they achieved the intended results afterwards. 

3. Leverage asynchronous preparation 

Think about all the status updates, project timelines, and documentation updates that your team spends reviewing at the beginning of each meeting. More often than not, this information can be written down and shared in advance, giving others the opportunity to prepare insightful questions and feedback. This is precisely why Meeting Owners should pinpoint what async preparation can be handled beforehand and make its completion a prerequisite for attending. 

One of Mochary’s best practices is to require pre-writes of every issue and possible solution that an individual wants to discuss at a given meeting. Once the pre-write is made available to everyone ahead of time, the individual can solicit real-time team input. 

4. Enforce asynchronous work 

In reality, even if async preparation is required, this doesn’t mean that everyone will follow through. Misunderstandings and potential slack-offs happen, especially if your team is not used to changes in your internal cadence. To bring these challenges to a zero, Mochary always demonstrates doing prep work in a group before asking individuals to complete it independently. This saves unnecessary headaches and makes employees feel at ease with the new meeting format. 

Consider the following plan to securely adopt the practice of asynchronous preparation: 

  1. Meeting 1: Skip the prep work. Instead, set aside 15 minutes during your meeting to present an exemplary written update and have everyone create their own. After that, spend another 15 minutes reading and commenting on each other’s updates. Only then the synchronous part of the meeting can begin.

  2. Meeting 2: Take pre-writes async, but reserve commenting for the first 15 minutes of your meeting. Block off 15 minutes before every meeting to check-in with individuals who have been unable to complete their own pre-writes.

  3. Meeting 3: Request pre-writes 24 hours in advance of your meeting. This should leave plenty of time to check on others’ updates and leave notes, allowing you to jump into a synchronous meeting format after. 

Naturally, upfront work might feel time-consuming at first. But as your team adapts to the process, your face-to-face meetings will become shorter and the end results will be more impactful. And remember – written preparation is not just about efficiency. It also ensures that the voice of every individual is heard and respected across the team. 

5. Timebox the synchronous agenda 

While asynchronous preparation can empower employees, leaning into it is also undesirable. In fact, synchronous work could be beneficial, as long as you keep a time cap on each discussion point. Consider your team’s time together as an opportunity to: 

  • Nurture personal connections – Finding time for casual conversations can be hard, especially if your company works remotely. As a solution, dedicate a few minutes of each meeting to employees sharing a highlight from their personal lives. This will help your team build trust over time, fostering better work outcomes and personal satisfaction.

  • Elaborate on issues – Depending on the issue’s priority, verbal discussions might need anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Time beyond the allocated amount is a sign your team needs more information to settle on a clear direction. This is where your Meeting Owner should step in, identify the missing aspects, and assign the appropriate team members to address these aspects before the next meeting.
  • Critical feedback – Mochary always gives feedback in real-time so he can address individuals’ questions or comments. These individual input sessions typically last 5 minutes, while paired ones come to about 10 minutes. 

6. Drive towards action 

Let’s say your team has finally come to a resolution regarding a pressing problem. The number one mistake you can make is cut it short at the discussion level. To ensure your preparation and meeting time wasn’t wasted, you need to break down every aspect of your solution and tie it to a specific action, owner, and due date. It’s best if your Meeting Owner completes this step, building a single source of truth regarding team responsibilities.

7. Track every action

Once you’ve outlined all actions and assignees, you can transfer them to a project management tool like ClickUp, Monday, or Asana. If your team doesn’t rely on any of these, a single spreadsheet will also do the job. This record will foster team-wide accountability and assure everyone that their efforts are aligned towards their desired outcome.

8. Collect written feedback 

Your meetings are meant to lift up your team. To make them truly beneficial for your employees, you have to proactively collect feedback on their effectiveness. For example, Mochary requests written input at the end of every meeting, from casual 1-1s to the Board of Investors. This practice encourages open, honest communication across the company and provides clear avenues for future improvement. As Mochary puts it, “The positive impact that this feedback generates is far greater than the effort it requires.” 

Remember that implementing these tactics is not a linear process. If an employee struggles with providing pre-writes on time, it’s best to revert to synchronous updates and comments. Similarly, if your team has a tough time transitioning to an asynchronous format, you can stick to the schedule for Meeting 1, where everyone works together in silence before discussion. Improving your team’s efficiency and ongoing performance should reflect your ultimate goals as a company – and so should the approach to your meetings. 

Jake Honig

Jake Honig