If you ever want an easy topic to generate debate among a management team, try:
Meetings - A waste of time or an effective use of time?
I've had several conversations with clients lately concerning meetings. Invariably, the newer or less effective managers have the position that meetings are a waste of time. However, my clients who are successful as managers find tremendous value in meetings. But let me be perfectly clear: They find tremendous value in meetings that are necessary, focused, and well managed. And we all know, most meetings don't meet those criteria, and as a result, they are a waste of time.
To ensure meetings you're responsible for aren't a waste of time, let me share some pointers on how to manage them effectively:
- Identify the purpose of your potential meeting.
- Information sharing - Do you need to share the same information in the same fashion at the same time will all attendees? Do you need to be able to see or hear their immediate reactions? If so, call a meeting. If not, don't. Send an email, write a blog, send a video blog, or convey the message in some other fashion.
- Team building - Do you need to get your team members together to reconnect? Do your team members forget the efforts of one another? If so, call a meeting to discuss and review each team or team member's contributions to the project. If not, don't. Send an email, write a blog, send a video blog, or convey the message in some other fashion.
- Brainstorm - Do you need to brainstorm ideas with the people in the room/on the call? Do you need the energy and creativity this particular group of people can generate? If so, call a meeting. If not, don't. Ask for their input in an email, blog, video blog, or in some other fashion.
- Make a decision - Do you need group input to discuss an issue and make a decision? Do you need the input from this particular group of people to discuss the issue from all relevant points of view. Do they have a vote or say in the final decision or do you simply want their input into the decision? (TIP: Let them know either way how the decision will be made so they're not frustrated when you make the final decision.) If so, call a meeting. If not, don't. Ask for their input in an email, blog, video blog, or in some other fashion.
- Decide if you need to meet in person. If all attendees are within the same facility, meet in person. If not, use Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx or some other means to cut unnecessary travel time. If attendees have to travel to attend the meeting, there's built in waste. Now I know many of you are thinking, "But if they're sitting at their desks instead of being here, they'll multi-task or otherwise be distracted." That's probably true and that's an indication your meetings are boring or their attendance isn't truly needed. If your meetings are necessary, focused, and well-managed, people will pay attention and participate.
- Create, send ahead, and then work from an agenda. The agenda doesn't need to be long or snazzy. It simply needs to state the planned Start and Stop times, the purpose (See #1 above), what you need of each person before the meeting, and what they need to bring or be prepared to share/discuss at the meeting.
- Start on time. Respect their time. This skill alone will gain you points.
- Create and follow some basic meeting rules. My standards are:
- Be on time and prepared.
- Clarify how decisions will be made (Unilateral, Consensus, or Majority Rules)
- Do not talk over one another. Limit sidebar conversations. Limit interruptions.
- Get to the point. No speeches.
- Seek contrary opinions.
- Everyone participates. You're here because of the expertise you are expected to bring to the discussion.
- Everyone can hold everyone else, the manager included, accountable to follow the rules.
- End on time or before if the purpose has been achieved.
- Conclude the meeting by ensuring everyone knows: Who is going to do what by when?
- Again: Follow the agenda. Work the agenda to control the "rabbit hunts" (i.e., discussions that go down "rabbit holes" discussing tangent details)
- End on time (see #5.8 above).
So, are meetings a waste of time? Yes, if they're unfocused and not well managed. However, if you want to be a successful manager, learn how to set-up and then manage your meetings well. Let your meetings become the focus for a team debate and be THE example of tremendously valuable meetings.
Copyright MMXII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about me on LinkedIn!