Leaders Struggle with Meetings

Leaders Struggle with Meetings May 25, 2010

One of the frustrations that people at all levels in organizations express is the negative impact meetings can have on their ability to get work done. In our last newsletter and blog, we talked about the importance of paring down priorities to create better focus and improve productivity. The same principle applies to attending meetings (in person or virtually).

We had the opportunity to work with an organization where managers were empowered to schedule each other for meetings whenever there was a blank space in the other person’s outlook calendar.  The company norm was that people needed to have a very good reason to decline any meeting scheduled for them. The end result was that the average manager in this organization was spending over 80% of their time in meetings during the day so the time to get work done was usually after hours.  As you can imagine, this inordinate amount of time spent in meetings coupled with not being able to control one’s schedule better created tremendous stress and compromised productivity.

Meetings can be a powerful way to communicate and plan or they can waste tremendous time and resources. Below you will find some tips or reminders that can help you improve the quality of the meetings you hold.  The big question should be – Do we really need to have this meeting?

Some basic reminders:

  • Email an agenda out ahead – ask yourself, what’s the purpose of this meeting?
  • Get input on items via email and consolidate the feedback to save time and go deeper quicker in meetings
  • Consider pre-reading or prep by sending documents out ahead instead of expecting people to review them and make decisions during the meeting
  • Be clear on the kind of meeting you’re having – some meetings should focus on your business plan and be more strategic (at least once a quarter); others are meant for quick updates, problem solving or tactical issues
  • Make sure you have the right people in the room and err on inviting less
  • Consider holding a meeting while everyone is standing – they go faster
  • One of our health conscious clients holds “walking meetings” where the participants hold their meeting while walking around the property – he reports that people stay energized and sometimes think better on their feet
  • Stick to the meeting time you set – even better is to end early
  • Always end your meeting with a summary and be clear on who is going to do what by when – remind people of their commitment if you don’t hear back to reinforce accountability
  • Engage a skilled facilitator to manage or assist in conducting meetings where everyone needs to participate

What’s your frustration with meetings? Solutions?