A few months ago, my boss at work shared a few pieces of advice on “closing the loop” – what it was, how to do it and why it was so important. It really stuck with me, and she and I have tried really hard over the last few months to make sure we always walk away from meetings or chats with all loops closed.
I think it’s a great concept that a lot of people struggle with it, so I wanted to share a little bit about it in case you need more loops to be closed in your life, too.
What is the meaning of “closing the loop”?
If you ever attend a long meeting where lots of ideas are discussed, but nothing ever comes of it… You’ve experienced the frustration of an unclosed loop.
Loops are left unclosed when an idea is responded to with, “Let’s circle back around on that.” or “I want to talk more about that later.”
When you close the loop, you take a concrete action to make sure that thing is circled back around on. Or, if someone asked you to take care of something or delegated something to you, you ask for a deadline, or set up a followup conversation to discuss it.
Last week, my boss suggested I reach out to a client about a potential project.
An unclosed loop would’ve resulted if I had said, “Great idea! I’ll do that.” and left it at that. But at the end of our conversation, I walked away from the meeting with a list of tasks that I needed to complete – including reaching out to that client. I put those tasks into ToDoIst and gave them deadlines for completion. Loop, closed.
Another example that I think many of us experience:
Someone offered to talk more with my boss and I about a topic we were unfamiliar with. We all get these sorts of offers, both personally and professionally. Many of us respond, “Oh, yeah, we totally should.” or “That would be great! Let’s do that.”
My boss actually responded with, “I would love to talk more about that. I’ll send you my Calendly link after this meeting and we can schedule a time to discuss it.”
How to close more loops
1. At the end of a meeting, give everyone five minutes to close their loops.
We do this at our weekly staff meetings, and it’s incredibly helpful. During the meeting, each of us personally takes note of anything that we need to do; at the end, we leave five minutes to discuss things with others, schedule touch points and ask followup questions.
2. If it’s an option, schedule that touch point or followup meeting when you first mention it.
Don’t wait until later.
3. Give and request deadlines.
Deadlines are hugely important when it comes to closing the loop.
It’s so easy to say, “Yes, I will do that thing.” It will probably get done, if you’re a fairly efficient and responsible person. But you might forget, or it might be later than the person who asked for it had hoped. So, it’s better to say, “I’d be happy to do that. When would you like to see it?” or “Is there a deadline?” or “Did you have a timeline in mind?”
If someone responds with, “Oh, whenever!” push for more information. You may have to schedule your own deadline – not all people are deadline oriented.