A lot of what we teach here is about a simple philosophy: be intentional about the process of meetings.
This same philosophy is shared by the creator of Yabbu, Christian Zierleyn. We sit down in episode 113 of the Meeting Leadership Podcast to discuss the finer points with Christian.
We discuss how each meeting is a process that can be improved, which can in turn be used to improve all business processes.
Born and raised in the Netherlands. Bookworm, cycling fanatic and nerd that became IT-consultant during the dot-com bubble. Entrepreneur, but also diversions as director of exchange organisation YFU Netherlands. Since 2008 engaged in local politics as a council member and alderman. Learned much about bad meetings that way. Co-owner of Yabbu. Now on a mission to change meeting culture. Dreams of only having short and fun meetings for the rest of his life.
You Can get in touch with Christian at https://yabbu.com
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00:00 – Show Opening
Gordon Sheppard: If you are a leader who’s working on a really big project and you know that your team meetings need to be as productive as possible, as quickly as possible, then you’re going to get a lot out of the episode today on the Meeting Leadership Podcast because today, you’re going to learn how to lead productive startup meetings.
Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast with Gordon Sheppard.
00:42 – Podcast content starts here!
Gordon Sheppard: Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast, where we give you the tips and the strategies that you need to build your leadership skills and learn how to run outstanding meetings. It’s great to have you here. And today on the show, we’re bringing back Christian Zierleyn from Yabbu. Now Yabbu is a meeting productivity improvement software and today, we’re going to learn from Christian about how to lead productive startup meetings because for a couple of years, they’ve actually been incubating Yabbu. They’ve been taking it out, testing it in the marketplace, and one of the key things that Christian and his team have learned along the way is how to have really productive meetings, especially in that lean startup environment. They’re not wasting any more time now. They’re actually putting their own app to really good use. And I’m not going to hold you back any longer from this great interview because I know you’re going to learn a lot. So here it is with Christian.
01:34 – Interview start – MLP 106
Gordon Sheppard: Christian, welcome back to the show. You did such a great job in 106. We’ve got you back again. Welcome. It’s good to have you here.
Christian Z.: Thank you for having me again.
01:49 – Christian’s self-introduction
Gordon Sheppard: For a lot of people maybe that didn’t hear episode 106, how would you introduce yourself?
Christian Z.: My name is Christian Zierleyn. I live in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and I’m a part of a really cool startup that developed a new kind of meeting tool and it’s called Yabbu.
Gordon Sheppard: And we learned a lot about Yabbu in episode 106, and we’re definitely going to leave some breadcrumbs there for people to get back to that here in the show notes. But today, the other piece that I wanted to bring you on for was the fact that for two years now, you’ve been in a startup, and that’s a very unique leadership position to be in because there’s usually no pattern for it. And I’m really interested in your experience with how you’ve actually structured your meetings as a leader within that startup. So at the beginning, Yabbu didn’t exist. So what were your meetings like, say, two years ago when you were just getting started on this process? And then, tell me what happened since then. So what was it like at the beginning?
02:35 – The humble beginnings of a startup
Christian Z.: It’s typical in a startup world where you’re really lean and agile, and so we were using all these tools, like WhatsApp and Slack and Trello and all these typical startup tools. And of course, we had the classic weekly meeting where we’re telling what we were doing. But when we had our first product, we thought, okay, now we should practice what we preach. So we started using our own tool and that was really fun. In between still having meetings in preparing them in Yabbu about a year ago, for the first time, we completely replaced our meetings with a Yabbu session and that grew and grew when we became better at using our own product. And right now, we really don’t have any classical meetings anymore. We do pretty much everything with Yabbu.
Gordon Sheppard: Wow. It’s so good to hear this story and again, to unpack it, for me, a lot of inspiration, the reason that I get up in the morning is based on inspiration that I got from quite literally what you said, which is that weekly updates meeting, which in the corporate world when I worked there, I just died a slow death. I have a huge problem with it and had to live through it. I was at a point where I wasn’t in a position to do anything about it, so I felt kind of that middle management helplessness when I was in there and it was just a disaster. And it’s funny to hear you say there’s this way that we think we’re supposed to go about things. So you mentioned all those typical online tools and yet.
Christian Z.: Yes.
04:08 – The impact of Yabbu in start-up meetings by its developer
Gordon Sheppard: … here you were, working on an online tool to improve meetings and at a certain point, you got to pull the trigger and actually experience it yourself. And the productivity side of those meetings from a startup perspective, what was the impact pre-Yabbu, putting your own app into play and then post?
Christian Z.: Before, we were really struggling with our meetings. we had the same problems like everybody that afterwards, we felt unsatisfied because we had been talking too long about stuff we could have done in other ways. And when we got our act together, we decided on a clear communication structure. For instance, we don’t use email internally at all. We use WhatsApp for the frivolous stuff. Congratulations, [inaudible] birthday. We use Slack for all operational stuff and we use Yabbu strictly for all tactical and strategic stuff. That’s how we communicate internally.
04:55 – Beyond agenda software
Gordon Sheppard: So this has gone beyond agenda software. It’s almost project management in a sense. Is that fair?
Christian Z.: Yes. We still use product management tools like Asana, but that’s really for the hardcore project management and Yabbu is more for our sprints. We use it more for the strategic stuff and we’re broadening it. For instance, we became ISO 27001 certified last year and we’re now using it for our ISO processes. We’re using Yabbu for onboarding. So we’ve gotten really creative in using it for more and more stuff.
05:32 – More a philosophy than an app
Gordon Sheppard: Well, and what I’ve appreciated about learning about Yabbu is it’s not just an app. It really is a philosophy.
Christian Z.: Yes, that’s true. We think, when you look at the effective meetings or you search online on Google for effective meetings, you usually find a couple of hundred thousand websites with five tips for effective meetings. And we want to go beyond that because we believe that bad meetings is such a serious problem. If you try to apply tips with that, it’s like applying duct tape to a sinking Titanic, we sometimes joke. And so we developed our own principles of effective meetings, which are the basis of what we do.
06:36 – The principles of Yabbu
Christian Z.: And also, it’s the basis of our meeting tool and it’s really quite simple. It’s like three basic principles and the first one is that you need to see a meeting as a process you can improve. And we have all these cool process improvement practices, if it’s Kaizen or Lean Six Sigma, stuff like that, and we use it to improve all business processes we can think of. But there’s one single business process we always forget, and that’s the meeting process, and you really need to approach it like a process if you want to improve it. That’s the first principles.
And the second is that you really need to think hard about what needs to go into a meeting and what can be dealt with in other ways or with that, we mean that if you look at a meeting, we use it for more or less four different things. We use it to inform each other, to discuss agenda items, to make decisions and we use it for social purposes. And the first three, information, discussion and decision, we already use all kinds of online tools like email and chat and Slack and Microsoft Teams for that, but that’s usually really quite unstructured and we think that tool like Yabbu, we tried to transfer as much as possible of the agenda items from these first three items, information sharing, discussion and decision-making to the online face and what we’re talking about, like the classic status update, that’s usually nothing but sharing information and you could do that with an email but it’s better to do it in a structured way and that’s what we mean by thinking hard about what needs to go into a meeting.
And the third one is that you really need to create ownership in advance. So that’s why we focus so much on an active preparation. And we also think, if you look at stuff like agenda items, that you always should formulate actively and ask people what the goal is of the agenda item and what they should do with that agenda item instead of just short description where everybody just waits for the meeting to hear what is this about.
Gordon Sheppard: And I love the fact that if there was a startup leader or any leader, from what you’ve just described, because hearing this philosophy behind what you’re doing, it really, again, takes it beyond an app into its own process. The fact that you’re respecting the meeting process itself, creating ownership, accountability, I think any business leader really gets that kind of thing. And yet somehow, we lose hope when it comes to meetings to a certain degree, but you’re providing an answer. Christian, I think we could go on and on today, but what I really want to make sure people can do is learn more about it. So how do they get in touch with you?
Christian Z.: Well, they can of course just check out our website. It’s Yabbu.com. It’s Y-A-B-B-U dot com, or they can just contact me through email. It’s a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gordon Sheppard: Christian, it was great to have you on the show.
Christian Z.: Thanks for having me.
09:23 – Be intentional about the process of meetings
Gordon Sheppard: Now I’m going to guess that your pen just ran out of ink from writing down all the great concepts that were covered in that interview. One of the big pieces for me is to be intentional about the process of meetings. I think you can’t get enough of that. I think if you can go back in, dig out some of those nuggets and put them into action to make your next meeting better, it’s going to help you and your team be a lot more productive.
09:44 – MLP 106: A Meeting Productivity App To Improve Team Communications – https://meetingleadershipinc.com/106
Gordon Sheppard: And if you’d like to learn even more from Christian, then check out episode 106 on the Meeting Leadership Podcast. It’s called A Meeting Productivity App To Improve Team Communications. And in there, he’s going to talk all about Yabbu and what they’re doing. And you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/106.
10:07 – MLP 120: Inspiring Leadership Stories with Chistian Zierleyn – https://meetingleadershipinc.com/120
Gordon Sheppard: And then, on episode 120 on the Meeting Leadership Podcast, we’re going to get a great inspiring leadership story from Christian and you can get that episode by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/120.
10:19 – Meeting Leadership Academy – https://meetingleadershipinc.com/academy
Gordon Sheppard: And I also want to let you know that this episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. Now I am really super proud of all the training that we’re doing through the academy. We’re offering live training for people, during half day workshops, for professionals, to help them and their teams really improve the way that they conduct meetings in their organizations. We’re also offering online tools that you can go in and get kind of quick hits and really pick out kind of, again, a practical tip strategy, something that you can take forward to put into action right away to make your meetings better. And you can learn all about that by going to meetingleadershipinc.com/academy.
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11:20 – Podcast Outro
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