Meetings. Are yours a waste of time?
As a senior professional you attend a LOT of meetings. Maybe too many? Some of them may be productive and useful but I’m guessing that there are many you walk away from, frustrated with the lack of purpose, achieving little progress and without a clear outcome or action plan.
There is no doubt, meetings are important.
Meetings are where great ideas are born, collaboration happens, relationships are strengthened, problems are solved and momentum to deliver important projects is maintained.
But how effective are the meetings you attend?
- Do you achieve tangible outcomes?
- Do you get a reasonable return on the time and energy you invest in meetings?
Or are they your number 1 time waster and source of frustration?
I was speaking with the women from my inner circle program yesterday about the effectiveness of meetings within their organisation. Some are spending up to half of their week locked away in meetings, many of which venture way off track and achieve very little. That is a LOT of unproductive time!
Unfortunately we can’t always influence the effectiveness or the outcomes of the meetings we attend but we can take charge of the meetings that we run ourselves.
Mastering the art of running productive, effective meetings is critical to your long term career success. Who would have thought… the humble meeting being important to your career success?
Let’s take a step back for a moment and think about what the purpose of most meetings is?
They are generally to support the team to deliver a task, service, project or new initiative… all of which are ultimately linked to the achievement of the business goals.
So becoming a skilled meeting facilitator can set you up to be seen as an invaluable contributor within the business and position you for some of the best opportunities on offer. They are your opportunity to make your mark and get you seen, heard and recognised as an influential member of the leadership team.
So let’s drill down into some simple strategies you can employ to minimise time wasted on ineffective meetings and maximise outcomes.
5 tips to boost the effectiveness of your meetings.
1. Conduct a meeting audit. Just hearing the word audit makes me cringe … but bear with me. Let’s start by eliminating those meetings that don’t have a clear purpose or outcome. Let’s stop having meetings for meetings sake. You know the ones. They are nothing more than a data dump or an update fest.
2. Banish the 60 minute standard. Why is it that pretty much every meeting is a standard 60 minutes long? Let’s take a moment and decide if this is the right length for every meeting.
Trust me. Your attendee’s will love you for booking just 45 minutes. It will give people an opportunity to grab a coffee, return an urgent call or gathering their thoughts before dashing to the next meeting starting on the hour.
Or perhaps a couple of 20 minute desk side catch ups would be better suited to keep track of progress and solve problems on the spot rather than waiting for an longer, less regular meeting.
3. Agree before you start. At the start of every meeting be clear on the purpose and agree on what needs to be achieved before the end of the meeting. Getting this agreement will help shape the discussions and to keep everyone on track.
And if it does go off track (we all know how easily a meeting can be hijacked by an off topic discussion or issue) it’ll be much easier to steer it back on point and towards the outcome you all agreed to.
4. Focus on needs & wants. Let’s agree that data dumps and team updates are of limited value …. and quite frankly boring to sit through! Aim to keep updates to a minimum and focus on what people need or want from the group to move a project forward. Maximise the wealth of knowledge in the room to collaborate, brainstorm solutions or seek advice.
5. Make it actionable. Never again allow the attendees of a meeting you facilitate, leave the room confused or unsure of what the outcome is. There comes a point in every meeting when you must move on from brainstorming and general discussion and make a decision.
And be ok that you may not reach consensus. Pleasing everyone is not the aim. Taking a stand, making a decision and moving forward towards achieving the business goal is your role as a leader.
And to conclude the meeting… be very, very specific and get agreement on who is going to do what by when.
Which of these tips will you take action on?
If you have read to the end of this article, it suggests to me you know you have room for improvement. Pick just one of these tips and give it a go during your next meeting.
I’d love to hear how it goes.