Collaboration is a keystone in modern business; an indispensable component that helps an organization innovate, grow, and reach new heights. But under the rock of collaboration lies a seedy underbelly with a dirty name: the useless meeting. This often-overlooked bad word can slowly creep into a company’s culture, derailing the momentum with the precision of a gremlin.
According to this handy infographic from Fuze, there are approximately 25 million meetings a day, eating up 15% of an organization’s collective time, and secretly, executives consider two of every three meetings to be failures.
This is an invitation to evaluate how your business (and you) conduct your meetings. By acknowledging what makes a meeting unbearable (as well as taking a few tips to heart), you’ll be able to hold fewer meetings and better utilize the ones you do have.
Your meeting just isn’t that important
This statement sounds downright rude, but this article isn’t about handshakes and pats on the back. It’s meant to serve as a blunt awakening so that you can be more productive and ultimately get more done at work. Which brings us to an immediate crossroads: you have to consider that your idea just might not be important enough to disrupt everyone’s day.
How to fix it:
When you’re setting up your meeting invite, try asking yourself:
- Could I accomplish the same thing by sending around an email or talking to someone at their desk?
- Does everyone I’m inviting need to be there?
- How long does this meeting actually need to be?
- Does the meeting have a clear objective to be met so it can be considered successful?
If you aren’t answering yes to these questions—every single time—it’s time to reevaluate your criteria for calling a meeting.
You aren’t leading it
How many times have you found yourself in a meeting responding to emails, checking Facebook, wondering what the heck a DUNS number is, or mentally creating a Seamless order for dinner? Chances are, if you’ve seen this in someone else’s meeting, it’s happening in yours, too.
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This likely stems from two things: you aren’t directing your meeting correctly, and you’re not encouraging participation. If you’re taking charge of your meetings, you’ll be able to directly influence its outcome.
How to fix it:
Preparation is key, as is leading the meeting with authority. If you find yourself lacking confidence, just remind yourself that if you’re capable enough to send a meeting invitation, you’re capable of running an efficient meeting.
Prepare for success by creating an agenda that includes:
- The purpose of the meeting (the problem you’re trying to solve)
- Determining what each person needs to accomplish
- Outlining next steps
- Evaluating the best way to follow up afterward
You may need to add a few things to your agenda because meetings will vary so widely in their scope, but this is a good place to start. Though you might not be able to control every meeting you’re in, you can make meetings you run feel so competent by contrast that your coworkers will enjoy coming to them.
You schedule your meetings for the wrong time
I don’t know a single person who looks forward to a meeting that’s scheduled after 4 o’clock. It’s my personal belief that the last hour or so of the work day belongs to the worker—whether that time is used to finish the day’s projects, organize the next shift’s schedule, or reply to emails that have been gathering dust through the long afternoon.
People want to leave work with a smile on their face, and a meeting at the end of the day feels like you’re tripping your employees (or coworkers) at the finish line.
How to fix it:
Unless you’re up against an immoveable deadline or an impending disaster, schedule the meeting for the next morning. Everyone will have an easier time focusing if they aren’t trying to beat traffic and get home for the night.
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Your meetings go on way too long
No doubt you’ve seen this scenario: you show up right on time, but the person running the meeting is late. There goes 10 minutes. For the next half hour, everyone in the room jokes around, meandering across the points of the agenda, but never focusing on it.
When there’s 5 minutes left, the organizer kicks things into high gear and tries to get the full hour’s meeting accomplished at once. After staying an extra 10 minutes (and side-swiping your next meeting), you’re flustered and just need a break. But you rush to your next appointment and enjoy laughing with your coworkers instead of honing in on the task at hand. This bad pattern is repeated ad infinitum—the meetings always run late at minimal efficiency.
How to fix it:
This goes back to planning your meetings and having a fully realized idea of what you’re trying to accomplish beforehand. When someone derails your perfectly planned meeting, don’t be afraid to take the reins and get back to problem solving. Once you’ve met your objectives, you’re free to end the meeting, leaving everyone some breathing room before heading back to their desks.
This isn’t to advocate that you aren’t allowed to have fun while working—but personally, I’d rather be part of a productive meeting that ends early than a meandering, time-consuming one that leaves me feeling frustrated.
You use them as an excuse to look productive
Let’s say you have a legitimate task that’s going to take a lot of collaboration, time, and energy—say, creating a marketing plan for your small business. After a smashing preliminary meeting that assigned roles and deadlines, you immediately schedule a follow-up meeting, daily check-ins, and weekly status updates. And of course, you need to present it to your investors, so you schedule pitch practices and a wrap-up meeting.
Sounds like overkill, right? Sounds a little familiar, right? There’s always the temptation to gather too many people together, too often, because it puts the organizer in the spotlight. At some point though, you aren’t meeting to get things done—you’re doing it to outwardly prove you’re being productive.
How to fix it:
Focus on what your project needs and schedule meetings only when necessary. Weekly check-ins with the full team can help keep everyone working diligently and on the same page. However, if they’re dispassionate and your teammates don’t need further collaboration, you might be just as well suited having a short 1-on-1.
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