Studies have shown that the over the course of a lifetime, the average American spends 3 years in meetings….the equivalent of 1,095 days or 26,280 hours. Mind boggling, isn’t it? Yet, how often do we scoot off to the weekly department meeting without a thought that this is one hour (or more) spent I will never get back? And better yet – how often do we intentionally try to make the very best of it?
In Patrick Lencioni’s book, “Death by Meeting,” he states that the greatest myth about meetings is that they are inherently bad. In our fast-paced business life, we have come to accept “poor” meetings. In fact, Lencioni says that bad meetings are simply a reflection of bad leaders. Ouch. That hurts. But he’s right.
Leaders – of all types and titles – let me encourage you to reflect on the meetings you have scheduled this week. Pause and be intentional to make them interactions that truly move your initiatives forward.
Here are three tips to improve your meeting effectiveness:
1. Purpose-Driven Meetings
Is your organization stuck in the rut of “meeting to meet”? Have meetings slowly evolved to the point participants dread them? Push the pause button and determine the real purpose of your meetings: update, tactical, strategic? Over time, meetings take on a personality and may slowly lose their original purpose. If the meeting content has strayed from its original purpose then don’t be afraid to start over. Cancel the current meeting, create a new meeting charter and invite the right people to the table. A meeting do-over is not failure; it is courageous.
2. The No Chairs Concept
Conduct your next “status” meeting standing up – literally. Update meetings are intended to be brief, tactical reviews to bring teammates up to speed on current deliverables. The moment participants are comfortable, it is too easy to fall into the long-winded trap. Updates slowly become discussions and 2 minute status updates become 5 – 10 minute discussions. And if everyone falls into this pattern, what was originally intended to be a 15 minute meeting morphs into a 30 minute discussion.
3. Everyone Can Cry “Uncle”
It is easy to begin the pointing game and blame leaders for our meeting deficiencies. However, I challenge ALL participants to take ownership of meeting effectiveness. If your meetings have become fruitless, speak up (delivery is everything here) and suggest some improvements. Are the right people in attendance? Are agendas sent in advance? Do participants contribute? Are decisions made? Are outstanding tasks clear and follow up at future meetings? Questions like these are asked through the lens of trying to move your group forward – not complain.
Meetings won’t go away. But we can make the very best of the time we invest in them. These tips are not rocket science; however they are disciplines that require intentional thought.