Meetings are meant to be the engine of productivity in the workplace. Does the same go for you? There are companies where managers spend 50 % of their time engaged in meetings, others where there are almost no meetings at all. So where does the truth lie? It depends – it is a balance of communication.
Communication, we all acknowledge, helps us perform better but when there’s too much or too little of it, there are breakdowns in overall productivity.
Too many meetings will quietly destroy productivity by breaking everyone’s day into little fragments and avoiding everyone to be involved in deep work. Furthermore, when people feel their time is being wasted in meetings, they can become disengaged.
The lack of meetings implies too little communication, which can lead to unclear expectations, people not focused on the company’s targets and low team morale (people feel they are not part of the business).
Often meetings are known to be the part that everyone hates about their daily work. They start out with good intentions, but they quickly descend into nothingness as people start to leave the agenda and before you know it you’ve reached the end of the meeting with almost nothing accomplished.
But meetings are a necessary business tool when you need to brainstorm new ideas, discuss current problems, review progress and make important decisions. It is up to you to manage an effective meeting; the frequency depends on how often you need to communicate with your team in order to get more done and to achieve your goals.
Here are 8 tips to increase the efficiency and improve the results of meeting time:
Determine whether you really need a meeting
Meetings should never be held for the sole purpose of sharing information.
There are many ways to cover the purpose of a meeting and achieve the same goal saving people time. You can achieve some things by circulating a memo. You can have a conference call. You can speak to people individually. You can even postpone it to another meeting or another time altogether.
A meeting can be considered necessary only if people need input from others to make progress, moving forward requires a face-to-face conversation, or the meeting is the most valuable use of everyone’s time.
Think about the meeting attendees
The proverb “the more, the merrier” does not work in this case. When you invite people to attend your meeting, keep in mind meetings are expensive. You can have a rough idea by calculating it using ‘cost per man hour times meeting duration times number of attendees’ – this will let you see the expense.
By attending the meeting, they are losing valuable time they could’ve used to get other work accomplished, which means you need to make each and every meeting worth people’s time. On the other hand, you want the group to bring diverse perspectives and knowledge, especially if the purpose of the meeting is to solve a tough problem or brainstorm. Sadly, there’s no magic formula for balancing cost against the potential for creativity. Use your best judgment.
Craft and share an agenda
If you have determined that the meeting is necessary, establish a clear purpose for the meeting, and write up an agenda and then share it with attendees ahead of time. Sharing your expectations and meeting items will ensure that everyone knows what the objective of the meeting is, what will be discussed, and what value you expect to bring to the meeting.
Showing the meeting agenda on one screen during the meeting itself can help to keep everyone focused on the meeting itself.
Don’t forget to include in your agenda one item at the end to capture any open questions or follow-up tasks and assign owners for them. It is very important to close all open points and not have open points dangling.
Start and Stop on time
In the agenda you sent to all attendees there was the start time of the meeting: start it on time and end it on time. Don’t wait for the latecomer. Is it not polite? Maybe, but it is unfair also to punish the people who are on time by making them wait for the person who joins the meeting late. The worst and ineffective types of meetings are the ones that start late and in spite of the established end time they proceed without defining how long the delay was.
Keep the aim on the results
You defined and issued the agenda having at the top of your mind the results you expected to achieve. Now that you are chair of the meeting, you have to stay on track. Off-topics are welcome only if relevant within the scope of the meeting; you can take note of them, but don’t spend too much time on them. Furthermore, quit discussions that dive too deep into technical discussions; if it’s relevant, plan a new meeting involving right people.
Summarize each conclusion and assign specific responsibility
When you finish the discussion of each item on your meeting agenda, summarize the discussion and get closure. Get agreement and completion on each item before you go on to the next one. Make clear to all attendees what has been decided upon and agreed to with each item before you proceed. If you have made a decision, assign responsibility for the specific task agreed upon and set deadlines. Remember, discussion and agreement without an assignment of responsibility and a deadline for the completion is merely a conversation. Make clear your expectations about who is going to do what and when.
Keep notes and circulate minutes
It’s important to walk out of the conference room with clearly defined action items. A key to getting maximum effectiveness from meetings is to keep notes of the discussions and to circulate the minutes of the meeting as soon as possible after the meeting conclusion (no more than 24 hours, whenever possible). Notes have to be as accurate as possible; people have to clearly know what is required of them without any possible misunderstanding even if they read the minutes after a certain period of time.
Besides all attendees, meeting notes should be shared with others whose work may be affected, avoiding the error of sharing with more people than is strictly necessary.
Create a culture of effective meetings
Meeting after meeting you can teach your team a culture of effective meetings with your lead by just showing them how to do it. In my opinion, this is the most important tip.
Often meetings are run driven by company culture, and as a leader it’s your job to set the rules. Respecting the deadlines and following up on tasks will help achieve results and ensure that people will recognize the value of your meetings. You will see people will find out that your meetings are valuable, not just a waste of time. People will feel more engaged and will enjoy being part of the team.
Keeping these tips in mind will help you stay productive, and achieve the expected results.
Do you have additional tips to share? Let us know in the comments!