It’s an event everyone, including the organizer, approaches with apprehension, dread; perhaps even a touch of fear. It’s the regularly scheduled work meeting. Historically dry and boring, yet generally regarded as a necessary evil, meetings have become something we suffer through rather than look forward to. “Death by meeting” has even entered the professional vocabulary as a way to describe the disappointment felt by those forced to endure a regular diet of face-to-face or teleconference snooze fests.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Meetings can, and should, be one of the most engaging and productive activities your team partakes in. Planned and conducted appropriately, meetings can serve to educate, inspire, and even motivate the team. As a result, they can perform more efficiently collaborate more readily, and produce more quickly. But to be successful, meetings with the team must receive the same care and attention as a meeting with a highly prized client or prospect.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to explore some of the elements that make up good meetings. Today, let’s start by cutting away the fat. Here are three kinds of meetings you shouldn’t even be having in the first place.
- The meeting held for the sake of having a meeting. I once worked with an executive who insisted on having quarterly management meetings. Every couple of months he would gather up his core team to decide on a date, time-frame, and venue. He would send out an email announcing the meeting to the organization’s management structure to ensure it was on everyone’s calendar. Then, after everything else was set, he would frantically solicit ideas for filling the agenda.
Regularly scheduled meetings aren’t necessarily a bad thing. One function of a well-designed meeting is to provide an opportunity for people to bond, network, and further the relationships that smooth the way for work to happen. But simply having a meeting because “we haven’t had one in a while” is never a good idea. It speaks to a lack of organization and focus. When a meeting begins as a blank slate of time that has to be filled, you wind up latching onto anything that will get the job done. If attendees are regularly subjected to ill-prepared speakers who have little or nothing to offer because they were dragged in to fill a 15 minute slot, then you’ve missed the mark.
Meetings should be created as a result of something meaningful that needs to be accomplished. There has to be a purpose behind gathering people together and pulling them away from their regular jobs. In other words, have a reason to meet before you call a meeting. If one doesn’t exist, don’t schedule it.
- The meeting held without an agenda. Why do managers insist on scheduling a meeting without an agenda? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been summoned to a meeting without the vaguest notion of what’s going to be discussed. Without any expectation, people are left to fill in the blanks and can assume any number of things will take place. Most of them turn out to be wrong.
Having an agenda helps people prepare. It allows the organizer to construct a meaningful flow of discussion from one topic to the next. It helps attendees prepare, if only mentally, for what they’re about to experience. It helps structure the meeting so that discussions are less likely to veer off-topic and keep people focused on the same objective. If you’ve decided that a meeting is necessary, then an agenda should be a given. Line out the topics and expected outcomes before sending the meeting invitation. Then be prepared to follow the agenda that you’ve prepared.
- The meeting that should have been an email. I recently had to stay after work for an all-employee meeting. No one knew what it was about, so everyone made wild guesses while grumbling about having to work late. It turns out that the purpose of the meeting was to announce a new program that was so simple an email would have sufficed. The team was gathered for only 15 minutes while the manager read from a piece of paper that could and should have been distributed to the staff instead.
Meetings should be reserved for advancing the team’s understanding in a way that only group interaction can accomplish. If the topic you plan to cover at your meeting is so simple that an email could convey the information, then just go that route. If there’s additional work to be done – work or discussion that can’t best be handled via email – then structure your meeting to accomplish that. Send the email in advance, but refrain from going over the same information again.
Time is a limited resource. We have to use it wisely. Make a point to avoid wasting time – yours and the team’s – by eliminating some unnecessary meetings from the calendar. Use the time and energy saved to make the occasions when you do come together that much more meaningful and effective.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION:
Have an opinion on this post? Share your thoughts on our facebook page.