Have you heard about the "you should care because…" heuristic?

This simple trick is beneficial for effective meetings and sharing the right level of information in the proper context. I happened to suggest it to a few people this week so that it might be helpful to others.

Here's the short version.

Whenever you are inviting people to a meeting or crafting the list of topics you want to talk about, ask yourself “why should they come to my meeting?” or “why should they care about this?”

Make a bullet point list of the participants or the subjects. Write down your answers as complete sentences, like the following:

  • "Alice, you should come because your knowledge of Kubernetes and Containers will be crucial to getting this project running quickly."
  • "Bob, you have experience with dealing with such PR issues in the past; I'd like to benefit from it and avoid cheap mistakes."
  • "I am sharing this information primarily for the QA experts because I fear this change we are doing might impact performance on the catalog page, and I'd love it if you could keep an eye on it with us."

When I schedule a meeting, I regularly leave those sentences in the agenda. It gives the attendees a good idea of what I expect from them and even values their participation. Remember that we speak of meeting "invitations," not "summons," which means that they could be refused...

And when I present a topic, I regularly say why I am sharing it and to whom. I want those people to hear it, so it never hurts to speak their name just in case they were distracted at that very moment.

On the contrary, if you struggle to write sentences, you would feel confident writing in the agenda or telling people live, question your motives! More than once, I found myself writing down sentences like:

  • "Bob, I added you to the agenda because this topic used to be your baby, and even though I don't want you here, I fear you'll throw a tantrum if you hear it happened without you."
  • "I'm sharing this information about those three bugs I fixed because I have nothing else to say; I feel bad for having no results to show for the third consecutive day of work and fear my colleagues will think I'm a fraud if I have no impact soon."

I didn't leave such a sentence in the agenda or say it out loud, but it helped me put words on these unspoken facts and feelings and address the root causes.

Have you tried this heuristic? Do you have another tip to suggest?