Are meetings the biggest waste of time, money and energy in your company or organisation?
Many businesses have had to adapt and go on-line in the present situation and there is lots of advice about how we need to keep in touch more and we feel the need to connect more often. There seem to be even more meetings than before. But are they effective?
I have many memories of sitting in so many boring, interminable meetings, both on and off line, that achieved very little and coming out of them thinking “that’s two hours of my life I won’t get back!”
And as well as draining your energy and wasting your time meetings are expensive.
A while ago I was approached to work with a Senior Leadership Team to help them become a highly performing one. One of the first things we looked at was how they spent their time.
The MD was astonished to find out that they were wasting over £250,000 every year in unproductive meetings. (We calculated the figure by multiplying the hourly charge rate for each member of the team and multiplied it by the hours spent in unproductive meetings). The actual cost was even higher because they could have been doing more profitable and productive work in that time wasted. And that doesn’t take into account the negative cost in terms of energy and reduced motivation from spending time that way.
I know not all meetings are like that. Some are hugely productive and creative but from my own experience and from working with thousands of professionals, that is not the norm.
When meetings are well run there is a flow of new ideas and good decisions that accelerate performance.
Badly run meetings create obstacles, stifle innovation and demotivate staff.
According to some sources you will spend as much as 37%, or more, of your work-related time in various meetings and so whether you are a regular leader of meetings or a regular attendee, it’s worthwhile being aware of how this can all be better managed.
So how do you create productive, engaging, cost-effective meetings that matter?
By having concise, clear, engaging communication and valuing everyone’s time.
Here are some ideas for when you are leading a meeting….
- Respect your attendees’ time.
Start on time and end on time … or even a few minutes early! Leave a break between the end of your meeting and the start of another one. Everyone will appreciate it, and every meeting will be better for it.
- Consider who needs to be there.
If it’s not essential for someone to be there, then don’t invite them.
- Set the agenda ahead of time and share it with attendees.
Give people the chance to prepare for a specific discussion.
- End with clear action steps.
Summarise what needs to be done, who needs to do it and when it needs to be achieved. This is often the most crucial step in having a successful and productive meeting.
For when you are a participant….
- Turn off your phone and other devices that you are not using for the virtual meeting to eliminate potential distractions.
One of the biggest reasons meetings are a waste of time is that we are all too busy multitasking to pay attention.
- Practice active listening.
Be fully present to whoever is speaking.
- Ask meaningful questions
If you don’t understand something ask for clarification
- Take notes
This can help you to clarify your understanding as you go along and stay engaged.
You can also rejuvenate your meetings in other ways….
- Have someone else lead the meeting who wouldn’t normally take on that role.
A change in roles can challenge everyone in new ways.
- Invite someone new
This could be someone from another team or an outside consultant who can provide a new perspective and ask different questions.
Meetings are a fact of life but bad meetings don’t have to be.
When you make meetings matter by thinking of them as opportunities to encourage creativity, deepen connection and embrace new ideas you’ll be amazed at how powerful and productive they can be.
With best wishes for your success