Meetings are one of the biggest roadblocks to productivity and profitability, as well as the greatest challenge to effective time management.
Meetings are a valuable way of communicating and gathering important feedback and are an essential part of conducting business. Unfortunately, most people do not know when a meeting is really necessary.
“The When In Doubt … Hold A Meeting” Mindset
“We were going to hold a meeting to decide on whether to have a meeting to appoint a committee on meeting policy, but everyone scheduled to attend the meeting is busy in another meeting.”
Meetings have been the subject of humorists, satirists and cartoonists for over a century … and rightfully so. Very often, meetings are held for the strangest reasons … sometimes even for no apparent reason at all. Executives are very often perplexed by the rationale for holding so many meetings and wonder if their staff has nothing better to do than to meet!
When many managers and supervisors don’t know what to do, their first reaction is to call a meeting. It’s an automatic “knee jerk” reaction that very often is not the most efficient and effective alternative. Frequently, they never even take time to consider the alternatives available. Changing this “Let’s Hold A Meeting” mentality greatly increases productivity and profitability
The Team Meeting Fiasco
“Team meetings” are widely used by department heads to quickly and easily keep track of what’s going on with the staff and to build cohesiveness within the group. Most “team meetings”, however, fail to achieve their full potential because they are held too frequently and last too long to be productive. Rather than functioning as a valuable management tool, they become a dreaded, time-wasting chore that prevents employees from focusing on more productive and profitable activities.
The problem isn’t the concept of team meetings, it’s the department heads who hold them. Mismanaging meetings, holding too many and too lengthy meetings and failing to hold their staff accountable for being prepared for the meeting are the fault of the department head or person calling the meeting.
For meetings to be effective, time-efficient and productive, managers need to learn how to manage meetings and attendees need to know how to prepare for and participate in meetings.
Meetings in Consensus Driven Cultures
In many “consensus-driven” organizations, meeting to discuss just about everything is part of the culture. This is commonly the case in non-profit organizations where it is critical to routinely secure “buy in” from major donors and corporate benefactors. While this may not be the best approach, it’s usually the only alternative. Employees in “consensus-driven” organizations will benefit the most from learning meeting management and participation skills
7 Reasons So Many People Love Meetings
Many employees, especially the less experienced staff members, love to attend meetings. For the most part, their love affair with meetings has nothing to do with business. Here are some of the main reasons :
Meetings Are Great For People’s Egos
Being invited to a meeting, especially if the “right people” are attending massages their egos and makes them feel important. Just being invited is sometimes more important that actually attending the meeting … especially if their superiors are going to be there as well.
A Vacation From Their Cubicles
Small, cramped cubicles are very inhumane places to spend an 8 or 9 hour work day. Meetings offer people much needed opportunities to leave their cubicles and take a break.
Meetings Break Up The Daily Routine
Most employees are bored with their jobs, especially positions where the functions are very standardized and routine. Attending a meeting provides a refreshing change of pace, until of course, there are too many meetings and meetings become the boring daily routine.
Hours To Put on Their Time Sheet
In service companies such as advertising agencies and law firms where time sheets are required to log billable hours, time spent in meetings usually translates into more billable hours. Accumulating hours spent in meetings makes life a lot easier when it comes time to fill out time sheets.
A Company Sactioned Socialization Opportunity
Meetings offer employees a company approved opportunity to socialize with one another during normal working hours. Mixing and mingling before, during and after meetings isn’t frowned upon. Hanging out in the break room or in each other’s office or cubicle, however, would be considered “goofing off”.
A Forum For Personal Agendas
Meetings offer employees a chance to promote their personal agendas or provide a public forum to air their grievances. This is a major reason why so many meetings run far longer than intended.
The Lure of Free Eats
The promise of free coffee and pastries and maybe even a free lunch adds to the popularity of meetings for most employees. Ever notice how right after the meeting room empties out, people descend on it like vultures to pick up any remaining morsels of food left behind.
11 Ways to Hold Fewer But More Productive Meetings
The bigger the company, the more time and money wasted on unnecessary meetings. Meetings can be a major drain on time, talent and the bottom line. The secret is to hold fewer meetings and make those the most productive possible. Here are several proven ways.
Hold A Meeting Only If Necessary
Many business situations simply don’t require a long, drawn-out meeting. There are usually alternatives to tying up resources in a sit-down, face to face meeting. Before calling a meeting for any reason, first ask yourself these questions:
• Is this meeting really necessary?
• Would a simple phone call or email suffice?
• Could the matter be handled at another meeting, like a weekly team meeting?
• Will a brief conference call work the same or better than a meeting?
• For larger or remote groups, is video or web conferencing an option?
Sometimes all that’s needed is an email or phone call. Very often the topic of discussion can be put on the agenda at another already scheduled meeting.
Conference calls take up far less time than face-to-face meetings. There’s also the option of video and web conferencing. These save time, money spent on refreshments and transportation. They also give staff the ability to “multi-task” and do other things while they sit in their office on speaker-phone.
Hold 20 and 40 Minute Meetings … or Shorter
The vast majority of meetings are automatically scheduled for either an hour or half an hour. There’s no rhyme or reason … thirty and sixty minute time intervals have just become an accepted norm. Scheduling meetings for either 20 minutes or 40 minutes cuts your meeting time by over 33% instantaneously … saving you thousands of dollars or more each year.
Limit The Number of Attendees
Not everyone needs to attend the meeting, only the essential people. Just because someone “might like to attend”, “might have something to contribute”, “might be hurt if they aren’t invited”, or is a “supervisor” or “manager” is no reason to have them at the meeting. Their time will be better spent getting their own work done. Simply send them the email meeting re-ca[ you send to the attendees.This massages their egos and keeps the in the loop.
Limiting the number of meeting attendees makes meeting management easier and saves time, money and greatly increases productivity. Inviting only the essential attendees can save you thousands of dollars and more every year.
Request An RSVP For Meetings of 3 People or More
Waiting for late comers and postponing a meeting because key attendees didn’t know or show up wastes time, human resources and money. Whenever possible, send out meeting emails or voice mails requiring an RSVP so everyone knows who will and will not be attending. This way meetings can be re-scheduled if needed in advance and no time will be wasted waiting for “no-shows.”
Pre-Circulate A Written Meeting Agenda
Agendas force staff to be prepared for a meeting, saving time and increasing productivity. Preparing a written agenda also gives you a means of holding staff accountable for being prepared for the meeting.
Develop A Tight Written Agenda
Create an a tightly focused agenda that is realistic for the meeting time scheduled. Make sure everyone at the meeting has been sent a copy in advance and has been instructed to prepare, so they can make worthwhile contributions. Stick to the topics on the agenda. If someone wants to talk about something else, have the person email you their ideas or speak with you at another time.This helps improve the quality of the discussion or feedback and results in a productive, well-managed meeting that finishes “on time.”
Start and End Meetings On Time
Starting and ending meetings on time conditions attendees to be prepared and not be late. It also helps build meeting participation skills with the staff.
Schedule Meetings At The Most Productive Times
Don’t schedule meetings at the least productive times … late in the afternoon or after normal work hours. The later in the day the meeting, the more people focus on getting home on time … or getting their work done so they can leave work at a reasonable hour. Their minds will not be totally committed to the task at hand.
Meetings scheduled during lunch time tend to be very unproductive, unless you provide a free lunch … or make it a “brown bag” or “lunch and learn” meeting where staff are expected to bring their own lunch. Either way there will be no “grumbling stomachs” interrupting the meeting.
Meet In A Room With A Visible Clock
Meeting where there is a clock on the wall helps people focus on the topic of discussion and keep the meeting running on schedule.
Manage Wind Bags and Floor Hogs
Every group has one or two self-appointed group leaders who tend to dominate the discussion, waste time and force the meeting to run way past schedule. They also inhibit others, especially shy or less experienced staff members, from providing their input.
In reality, these personality types generally display a “constipation of thought and a diarrhea of words.” If all else fails to control them, just don’t invite them to any more meetings. They’ll soon get the hint.
Establish Simple Meeting Rules and Expectations
Develop a list of meeting rules and make sure everyone understands and abides by them. These should include:
• Be on Time
• Come Prepared or Don’t Come At All
• Have A Positive Attitude
• Be Respectful
• There Are No Bad Ideas
• Check Your Egos At The Door
• Set Cell Phones On Vibrate
• No Texting
• No Monopolizing The Conversation
Hold fewer meetings and manage the ones you do hold well. Do this consistently and your productivity and profits will show a big difference.