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Love to Hate Meetings

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Love to Hate Meetings

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:

  1. Identify the purpose of your potential meeting.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Start on time. Respect their time. This skill alone will gain you points.
  5. Create and follow some basic meeting rules. My standards are:
    1. Be on time and prepared.
    2. Clarify how decisions will be made (Unilateral, Consensus, or Majority Rules)
    3. Do not talk over one another. Limit sidebar conversations. Limit interruptions.
    4. Get to the point. No speeches.
    5. Seek contrary opinions.
    6. Everyone participates. You're here because of the expertise you are expected to bring to the discussion.
    7. Everyone can hold everyone else, the manager included, accountable to follow the rules.
    8. End on time or before if the purpose has been achieved.
    9. Conclude the meeting by ensuring everyone knows: Who is going to do what by when?
  6. Again: Follow the agenda. Work the agenda to control the "rabbit hunts" (i.e., discussions that go down "rabbit holes" discussing tangent details)
  7. 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!

Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.


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8 thoughts on “Love to Hate Meetings”

  1. Irene Becker says:

    Liz: Love to Hate Meetings is a must read for executives! Great content. Valuable action steps to running effective meetings. I do not know if there is a statistic available around the effectiveness of meetings, but too much time is spend in meetings that do not produce results and was time or disengagement members of the team.

    Thanks for your always valuable and wise insights.

    Best regards, Irene

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Thanks for stopping by Irene. I think the stats on ineffective meetings would be frightningly fascinating!

  2. Alan Kay says:

    Yes, meetings are not a necessary evil. They create understanding and alignment among groups that is much harder to achieve by other means. They are, however very costly and therefore your ideas make a great deal of sense. They take meetings from being an unconscious incompetence to conscious competence.
    My Swedish friend Michael Klingenstierna Hjerth loves to simplify. Here's his pre-meeting tool:
    1. What is the purpose of the meeting?
    2. What result would you like to see?
    3. What has worked previously (to do this)?
    4. What can you do now?
    5. What else?
    6. What needs to come first?

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Great info Alan and thanks for taking the time to sharing Michaels's list!

  3. Thanks for your contributions to the eradication of bad meetings.

    1. Ha! I'm doing my small part in the effort! Thanks Dale.

  4. Debbie Halvorson says:

    Liz, I have led so many meetings I can't count them and it is not always easy to keep people on track. I was the Caucus Chair when I was a State Senator and even our now President was hard to keep in line. Since I read this article and use the points mentioned there is no need to keep people in line. It is taken care of before the meeting even starts.
    Thank you as always.
    Debbie

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Hi Debbie - Thank you again for reading and commenting! Does it make you shudder as you reflect on all of the bad meetings you've had to sit through? Managing a well-run meeting isn't all that difficult, it just requires the leader to do a bit of prep work, and then - here's the tricky part - do his or her job during the meeting to ensure its objective stays front & center. I see too many business owners/CEOs, etc be THE culprits in steering meetings off course. Their usual tactic is something along the lines of, "I know this is off-topic, but this is important...." and off they go. If they'd only stop and look at how the majority of people sitting around the table react, they'd realize -- It's not important to everyone in that room, it's only important to the leader and therefore it should be handled off-line. However, the leader is in his/her own world now and doesn't see that most of the managers heads will drop as they think, "Ah crap...here we go again...another 20 minute tangent that has nothing to do with me....how can I check my emails without the boss seeing me....." Such a waste.

      Have a great day Debbie!
      L

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on May 16, 2012 in Leadership Development and tagged , , , ,