One of the most abused tools that managers or leaders have in their arsenal is the team meeting. There seems to be an inherent need to schedule these each week, whether there is a need or not. Managers need to understand that as effective as these can be, these can be an enormous waste of productive time for your company.
Full disclosure: as someone who has held ineffective meetings, I am not here to cast judgment, but tell you how I have streamlined my process. I hope it will benefit you as well.
As we begin, let’s discuss why we have meetings in the first place.
- We want to share knowledge
- We want to make sure everyone participates in the discussion
- We save time from telling everyone individually
- We want everyone “on the same page” in terms of execution
These are all very valid points.
What managers need to focus on asking themselves at all times is if this meeting is really necessary.
My concern is that when meetings are just on people’s schedules, we tend to just fill them with unimportant items to fill the time. The risk is elevating simple issues to the level of importance that should be reserved for top level discussions.
How many times have you been in a meeting where you end up discussing topics that have nothing to do with your department or area of responsibility? How many times have you thought about what other things you could be doing with this time? How many times have you looked at your co-worker and said, “Get to the point. They really love to hear themselves talk.”
Sorry, we all do it or have done it.
Here are a few mistakes that managers make and how my approach to meetings has changed.
Look at the list of meetings you have scheduled over the next two weeks. Are the meetings there because they are addressing an important issue or are they just scheduled? Cancel EVERY meeting that has no relevance. Keep a list and review the purpose. Clear your calendar and be very strict with what you allow to be scheduled. A majority of items do not need meetings. A quick chat as you walk with another person can accomplish the same thing as a scheduled meeting.
If you choose to put a meeting on the schedule, set a strict timeline. I heard a manager say the other day, “I know we only need 30 minutes, but let’s schedule it for an hour. We can always cut back if we don’t need the time. “ The problem is that you never cut back. Because you have nothing pushing you to move on to the next item, you end up wasting time chatting about other things that have no relevance.
Create 5, 10, 15 or 30 minute slots and stick to them. Whatever you used to slot for meeting times, cut it in half. If you had a 60-minute meeting, cut it to 30. It keeps everyone focused on being prepared, presenting ideas in a concise manner and taking notes on action items that have to happen once the meeting is over.
There has to be an agenda or list of items to be discussed. I have been in meetings where no one takes charge and everyone is waiting to see what the meeting is about.
Whoever called the meeting owns it. If possible, an agenda should be used and shared before the meeting. If there is no agenda, reschedule the meeting. It trains people to not waste everyone’s time.
Lastly, each meeting needs to have some resolution, even if it is a follow up meeting. Too many times people leave meetings with no tasks to accomplish or nothing to follow up on.
We now take five minutes at the end of each meeting to review what was accomplished, what tasks everyone has and timelines for execution. This keeps projects moving forward and allows accountability.
We all have the same amount of time in each day but those who excel use the time in a more efficient way.
If you create an environment where everyone’s time is important, you will get much more accomplished each day and everyone will be more productive.