Let’s start with two simple questions:
- How much of your previous working week was taken up with meetings? A ballpark figure in hours will do.
- How many of those meetings were actually productive from your point of view?
Are your answers a little unsettling? For many people, they will be little short of terrifying.
It’s hard to put it any other way – meetings have become a problem.
There’s too many of them and their efficacy is often dubious at best. There’s also something about meetings that seems to be a particularly efficient breeding ground for the worst sort of office politics and airing of petty interpersonal concerns.
Regardless of industry, position or income, nearly every participant in the modern workforce has felt the full, deadening force of unproductive meetings at some time in their career. For many, it’s a daily hell they’re trapped in with little hope of escape.
Don’t be one of those people. It’s time to take control of your meetings rather than continue letting them run your working life. In this article we will show you how you can create more time by managing meetings effectively.
Your first step in making a dent in that calendar is by asking yourself these three simple questions.
- Do I really need to be at this meeting?
To be fair, some meetings are simply unavoidable. The CEO demands a personal chat with you and the head of Finance? You’re going to be attending that meeting regardless of what you think of its merits.
For many other meetings though, it’s questionable whether you need to be present. If you’re the person actually organising the meeting, the first thing you should be asking yourself is does this meeting need to take place at all?
If it’s a meeting scheduled by somebody else, break it down from the point of view of your own goals, your team’s goals and the opportunity cost involved in attending. If it’s not moving the needle on either of the first two – or potentially stopping you from completing a higher-value task – kick it to the kerb.
- Have I prepared effectively for this meeting?
Assuming you actually should be at a meeting, the next sensible step is taking responsibility for your own preparation.
If you’re organising the meeting yourself, this will involve creating:
- A written agenda communicated to all participants well in advance of the meeting.
- A defined start and finish time that is clear to all.
If it’s a meeting you’ve been invited to and neither of those things are present, do not be afraid to ask for them.
As part of your preparation for any meeting, whether run by yourself or not, you should also be crystal clear about what you expect from the meeting personally before you walk through that door.
- Are the right people attending the meeting?
Our third question can be considered from two angles if you are studying a list of potential attendees: who doesn’t need to be there and who is missing?
Bear in mind that – completely separate from actual job title – there are specific types of people whose presence is desirable:
- The decision maker or – failing that – someone who can heavily influence the decision maker.
- The person who will be outlining the decision to be taken and preparing a plan for executing it.
- The person who will be actually carrying out the tasks resulting from the decision.
In some cases, these people will be one and the same. In others, they will be representatives of entire teams responsible for those roles. Your mileage may vary.
One thing is certain though, those three roles need to be represented in the vast majority of meetings in some capacity or a successful outcome is in jeopardy.
Taking control of meetings in your working life is not going to be an overnight process by any means but it remains a goal very much to be reached for.
Use our three simple questions above to start the process, stick to your guns, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it will make to the working week of you and your team over time.