Meetings in the business world are like cellphones and opioids. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. But is every formal get-together really necessary? Most people NOT presiding over one would say “no”. Maybe they have a point. When was the last time you heard a group of people leaving a conference room and collectively say; “Now, that was productive”. If anything, they rush back to their workstations to return missed calls and make up for the LOST time.
Don’t get me wrong, meetings have their usefulness. It is an opportunity for the boss to show his face and thereby get an instant read on where everyone on the team is with the latest project. It also shows the boss’ support of his subordinates. By maintaining the flow of information, management may prevent certain members from secluding themselves… and doing God knows what. The team may discover mistakes being made and get the project back on track. Too, there is something to be said for synergy and collaboration. It also provides much needed face time for building team camaraderie (psst… Millennials, that’s REALLY important). But these are perhaps the most grand ideals for having a meeting in the first place.
Here are some quick pointers on how to have a more effective meeting time:
Is it necessity or habit? If there is a “standing meeting”, perhaps Wednesdays mornings for the sales force, consider whether you really have to meet THIS week. If sales are good this quarter, keep your people in the field and OUT of the office. Actually, that applies to poor sales as well.
Select a time frame (like an appointment?) and stick to it. Keep a “huddle” to just that., short, sweet and to the point. If you call a meeting at 11:30 and lunch begins at Noon, you have exactly 30 minutes. Going over time and ordering everybody food is NOT OK. The occasional overage due to an unforeseen emergency will be forgiven. Make it a habit and your team will grow to resent you. After all you are not respecting their time or the productivity they bring to the company during it.
It’s alright to have empty seats. Should everyone in the department be present for a meeting just because they are in the department? People not assigned to the latest projects and other specialist would much rather be doing their own work. Veterans who have been “down that road before” should only be asked to attend due to the expertise they can provide or to understand how the work will be distributed.
I have a love/hate relationship with agendas. Granted, the boss is paying the employees so he or she gets to ramble on as long as they want. However, irritated and underutilized employees tend to find work elsewhere. It may seem too formal to have a list of topics but being too casual can pull the discussion down a rabbit trail. Before you know it, people are looking at their watches. Select the points you think most imperative to discuss and stick with it. Don’t keep it a surprise! Email copies of the agenda to all participants BEFORE the meeting so people will know what to expect… oh and to be prepared too.
Perhaps the most productive meetings I have attended are where the participants are independent contractors or volunteers rather than employees. And therein lies the rub. They WANT to be there. If you are calling a meeting, you need to ask yourself what the attendees will get out of it. If your people do not grow in some way or become more efficient, the meeting may not be necessary at all.
Over 2500 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War. Millions of business people have read it and liken business to war itself. Personally, I do not like that analogy because at the end of the day, no one has died and hopefully, no property was destroyed. However, Sun Tzu did have a wonderful grasp of how groups are effected by leadership, be it good or bad. He stated an army (company or other group) did NOT exist for waging war (or simply to come to work each day). Rather, an army exists for VICTORY (productivity or increasing market share). Holding meetings may seem like a very managerial thing to do, but is it a good use of everyone’s time when an email would have done just as well.