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Making Pre-Work Work

Iconic University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant said, “It’s not the will to win that matters-everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”


And win he did. Bear Bryant led Alabama to six national championships. And with a little preparation and pre-work, you, too, can lead your team to winning team meetings (even if you’re not the football type).


What is pre-work?


Pre-work is an activity assigned in advance of a meeting that is designed to help participants prepare for productive conversation. Pre-work serves 3 key purposes:


  1. Provide context and shared understanding of information and the situation

  2. Enable participants to think ahead, have time to digest information and reflect

  3. Allow participants to engage with the material when it’s most convenient for them rather than during the meeting.


When appropriately assigned, pre-work can be engaging, productive, and will add value to your organizational meetings.


Push common pre-work to the next level


Review and contribute to the agenda.


Circulate the meeting agenda to your team in advance and ask for feedback. Do items need to be added to the agenda? Can an agenda item be resolved ahead of time so that it doesn’t take up valuable meeting time?


Review and respond to Documents.


Provide documents, spreadsheets, a presentation deck, or design draft to the team members ahead of time. Ask the participants to review the material and share feedback, questions, and concerns. Provide context for the documents to be reviewed so the meeting can focus on the discussion rather than the presentation.


Ask questions for reflection.


Ask your team questions in advance of the meeting, and have the team come prepared to discuss the answers. This will save time during the meeting and also increase deeper thinking because of the additional time to ponder.


Use These Dos and Don’ts to Pre-work Your Way to Winning Meetings



Now what?


Now that you’ve enabled your meeting participants to be well-prepared by assigning appropriate pre-work, what do you do next?


Acknowledge the pre-work.


Be sure to address the pre-work your team has done and build the meeting’s conversation on it. Avoid presenting the pre-work information during the meeting.


Acknowledge the team.


Acknowledge team members who have done the preparation and contribute their thoughts based on the pre-work. Rewarding desired behavior can reinforce the team to continue the good practice.


Acknowledge the difference.


Help your team understand the difference between meetings in which not all participants completed the pre-work and meetings where everyone is fully prepared and engaged.


By following these simple suggestions, you will add tremendous value to your pre-work assignments, which in turn will add incalculable value to your business meetings.


Do you love (or dislike) pre-work? Have any pre-work practices that you recommend as Do’s or Don’ts?

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