Nothing is more frustrating than a meeting that goes longer than needed, has people in attendance who don’t need to be there and where nothing is achieved because no one really knew the purpose of it anyway!
I am a stickler for only spending time on things that matter which means I am continually assessing the meetings in my calendar to make sure they aren’t too long; I know why I am attending and I know what is expected of me. Otherwise I will happily and politely decline.
So what about in your workplace? If I was to sit in on some of your team meetings would I be happy with what I am seeing? Maybe? Well this is something I actually do, observe meetings and then provide feedback to the CEO on how to make them more effective and engaging for everyone. It is always very interesting and there is ALWAYS room for improvement.
Here are some of the key items I look for in an effective meeting (in person or on zoom):
1. Is there a meeting agenda – I don’t care if this is a quickie, it must keep to plan and the best way to do that is to outline what needs to be covered in the meeting beforehand. It doesn’t have to be typed up and all fancy, it can literally be on a scrap piece of paper but there must be a plan for this time you are spending! Creating an agenda will make sure you don’t miss anything or get off track.
2. Is there a clearly defined purpose – why are you having this meeting? Is it to brainstorm, share information or give an update, get feedback, make a decision? Too many meetings end with the outcome never actually being achieved leading to ANOTHER meeting. Put it on top of the agenda or a whiteboard and in the calendar invite so everyone knows exactly what needs to be achieved during this time. Side tip – don’t have meetings that combine all the above purposes – they all require very different headspaces so keep it clean and easy and have one purpose per meeting
3. Are we entertaining egos – in other words are there people in this meeting that don’t need to be there, but are because they need to feel important or not left out? If that is the case a separate conversation needs to be had with that person. Do not waste people’s time (and confuse the team) by having people in a meeting just because you are worried about upsetting someone.
4. Where is the gift of time – I believe every meeting in your calendar right now can be reduced by 15 minutes and still achieve the same outcome. We tend to book meetings on the hour and if we have an hour we will fill an hour. Imagine if you gave your team an extra 15 minutes to their day, week, year for EVERY meeting you had in your office. That is a lot of time and there is no better gift than time. Right now go to your calendar and take 15 minutes off every meeting you have! I promise you don’t need it. You can thank me later!
5. No back to backs – there is nothing I find more frustrating than someone coming late to my meeting having rushed from their last one. Their headspace is still at the last meeting or the fact that they didn’t have a chance to go to the bathroom or grab a snack. It takes them at least 15 minutes to get present and add value. The same goes for someone who must leave 5 minutes before the end (when we are summing everything up) because they have one straight after and need to go to the bathroom, grab a snack and pick up the paperwork they need. There should be no back to back meetings in your calendar. You are doing the people you are meeting with a disservice by not giving yourself time to be fully present for them. Always have at least 15 minutes in between so you can breathe.
6. Where to from here – every meeting needs to have a clean end, meaning that everyone should know what they need to do from this meeting, when it is due and what to do if they get stuck. A strong close will make everyone feel like the time was productive. Side tip – I always plan to finish 5 minutes before the end time to give everyone that feeling of being on top of their day when they head off to their next task!
My aim is to always make things simple because I believe it is the little things that have the biggest impact. Every one of these tips is easy to implement today. It takes no extra energy, just a little discipline and they will all make you and the team much more productive and happy.
Give them a go and see how your week changes!