“One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not to be done at all.” Brian Tracy
Do you call meetings, attend meetings or avoid meetings? Meetings are a really useful way to bring everyone’s thoughts together, but they can also be an impressive way of stealing productive time. Managing meetings is a great way to create a more effective workforce. Here are some ways you can very quickly make meetings much more productive:
- Create an agenda that justifies each meeting – even if you hold a regular weekly meeting, have a clearly defined purpose for each meeting that you articulate in advance. Ensure action items are marked. This will save meetings for meetings’ sake – if there is nothing to address, cancel the meeting!
- Decide who needs to be there for which part of the meeting and then design the agenda accordingly. Perhaps start with the bigger messages/projects that everyone needs to attend for and narrow down the topics to reduce the attendees as the meeting progresses. Make it clear that this is not to exclude attendees, but a time-saving exercise.
- Introduce stand-up meetings, particularly for large/check in meetings.
- Introduce Michael Michalko’s suggestion, “In advance of a meeting, frame a problem or issue to address. Ask each person to bring, at least, one new idea or suggestion about the problem as their ticket of admission to the meeting. Have the people write their ideas on index cards and collect them at the door. No one gets in without a ticket. Start the meeting by reading everyone’s contribution.”
- Tighten the times for meetings – are you regularly creating hour long meetings? could you achieve in half an hour what you achieve in an hour? Consider the timeframe for every meeting and invite people to a limited amount of time, even if that’s an odd figure.
- Free up your team by removing needless repeating meetings. Instead, only gather the team when there is an issue to be decided.
- Give your team members the “Right to Decline” when they have work that needs to be done or when they recognise that they cannot contribute to or gain from the meeting.
- Make sure someone is clearly in charge of the meeting. Some people will want to be heard on every topic, while others will make faces or wriggle around in their chair without actually speaking out. Make sure you gauge the body language and facial expressions of the meeting’s participants and call on them to voice their opinions if necessary. Don’t let people monopolise the conversation, and stop any off topic discussions immediately. You have an agenda, so stick to it. (NB: This could be a development opportunity for a member of your team0
- Keep the energies of the meeting up so that people aren’t slow in contributing, for instance; the leader of the meeting could remain standing, moving around and active during the meeting; you could use a whiteboard or a flipboard to keep track of the agenda meeting; you could even try some 4km an hour meetings – everyone taking in some fresh air whilst sharing thoughts.
- Ban electronic gadgets at meetings. A meeting is no place to check mails, Twitter or Facebook. Make this a meeting policy or protocol – even to the CEO.
- Make sure you make notes of any decisions you made during the meeting – people have a tendency to only remember the conclusions that they want to remember. If something necessitates action, make sure you detail this in your conclusion of the meeting; who will take the action, how they will proceed and when they have to deliver the result.
- Plan production of the meeting notes when you plan the meeting so that they are sent out as early as possible. This will give people the sense that you had a productive meeting that actually achieved a result, and may possibly motivate them to make more useful contributions to your next meetings – or recognise who are the regular non-productive attendees.
If you just incorporate one of the above into your plans and thinking, you will claim back some of the time that is given over to meetings – and so taken away from productivity. Give it a go and let me know how it works for you – or do you have any tips you could share with others? Leave a comment and I’ll update the blog with your suggestion. Good luck!