A recent MIT Sloan Management Review article asked readers to declare ‘calendar bankruptcy’. Many workplaces remain steeped in a meeting-driven culture, even amongst the multitude of changes that the business world has experienced in the last few years.
According to Otter.ai, 15% of an organization’s time is spent in meetings, with that number steadily rising since 2008. And the further one goes up the chain of command, the worse the issue becomes. Middle management spends, on average, 35% of their time in meetings. That number rises to 50% for members of the c-suite.
Are these daily get-togethers and weekly gatherings really as important as we like to think they are? The middle ground we’re all looking for may not be as easy as ‘have more meetings’ or ‘have less meetings’.
Well-run meetings do offer various benefits. Kanban Zone lists faster decision making, stronger relationships, and more amongst the various value points up for grabs. At the same time, many if not most meetings aren’t run effectively. Whether at home or in the office, common complaints often include a lack of planning and overlong attendance lists.
And an ineffective meeting does have consequences. Think of it this way. If you have 20 people attending a one hour meeting, by the end of it, you’ll have lost twenty man hours. Could whatever decision was made within that 60-minute window really be worth the time and money put into it?
A modern workplace requires meetings. There’s no way around that, but employees on every level are being burnt out, both physically and mentally, by the current setup. Your individual teams need room to breathe, and as an executive, you need time to think. Remember, you were brought in to move the business forward, not simply check daily meetings off a to-do list.
Before we jump into things, a reminder: The tips and tricks listed below may not work exactly as intended for your specific company. Make organizational changes accordingly.
1. Avoid schedule in advance or recurrently.
If your meetings frequently happen on a recurring basis between a set group of people, there’s a chance that they’re lacking in true meaning or substance. Often, ‘legacy meetings’ are held onto for far too long despite their decreased usefulness overtime.
Whether situational or structural, things are bound to quickly and frequently change within today’s fast-paced business environment. A get-together that makes sense today may be completely unnecessary tomorrow.
When it comes to pre-planned meetings, the general train of thought is something along the lines of “if it’s on the calendar, we ought to have it”. By encouraging that mindset, a company’s calendar culture will be driven by redundancy and not necessity.
Discourage this way of thinking by moving away from pre-planned meetings and adapting an approach that embraces agility and flexibility. Have people work their schedules around themselves rather than working themselves around their schedule.
Another approach involves having everyone manually review their current schedule. With every meeting on the calendar, they should ask themselves, “Am I integral to its success?”
More often than not, the answer is most likely no. Even in the workplace, business leaders often suffer from FOMO, also known as the fear of missing out.
If people don’t see their specific team or employees every day, there’s often a worry that they might fall out of the loop. At the same time though, weekly demonstrations and specific decision-making milestones were created for a reason. Taking a respectful step back and allowing everyone else to work in the meantime will allow all those involved to remain more productive.
2. Break meetings down into their various parts.
At its core, a meeting is meant to keep a group of people organized and focused. Why then, do we often neglect the structure of the meetings we hold?
Breaking a meeting down into its distinct parts, we begin to recognize that a singular occasion is made up of multiple goals. Handling each of these goals separately, whether through personal tasks or multiple smaller conferences, can lead to a better utilization of everyone’s time.
Before the internet, meetings acted as the central crux of most business endeavors. Today though, one can easily instant message or email anyone they need to get a hold of, allowing everyone to better respond to situations on their own time.
Your workplace most likely utilizes digital tools, such as slide decks or task management software, so use them. Fold these pieces of tech into your pre- or post-meeting routines. Along with making your meetings more efficient, it will better encourage people to be thoughtful in how they’re tackling upcoming goals and challenges.
Along with keeping everyone well-equipped to tackle shared challenges, it’s also good to decrease a gathering’s length when possible.
According to Karbon Magazine, the benefits of a shorter meeting can be summed up with a simple adage. The shorter a meeting is, the more time there is for everything else.
3. Incentivize employees to stay tuned in.
As previously mentioned, a certain amount of meetings will always be necessary. If you truly can’t find a way around a scheduled block of time, consider making it something an employee looks forward to (or at least doesn’t dread).
Some of the tips mentioned in the previous section can be applied here. Showing consideration towards others by divying things up and providing context in advance is not only helpful but also polite. Most employees will take the time to read up and prepare if given the resources and options.
Some of the keys to employee happiness during required sit-ints include comfort and engagement according to the Houston Chronicle.
To utilize the former, make sure your office’s meeting locations are welcoming and inclusive. Windows with natural light and comfortable furniture are some of the most obvious opportunities for improvement among American workplaces.
As for engagement, make sure that the format of the meeting allows for communication and openness. It’s common knowledge that no one wants a lecture, and allowing everyone to chime in better incentivizes those involved to pay attention.
And with so many employees currently trying to avoid a return to the office, these kinds of thoughtful additions to the workplace environment offer benefits beyond those found in simple meetings.
At Northpoint Business Advisors, much of our work centers around increasing profits across the board. We also recognize that businesses are complex instruments though, and various factors influence profit beyond growth and revenue.
Leadership is important, and it takes a true leader to recognize and heed the advice of others.
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