We’re all ‘time poor’ these days, and yet most management team meetings – more than 65% – are not even called for the purpose of making a decision. They’re held for “information sharing” or “group discussion.” The meetings that do focus on strategy are most commonly off-site brainstorming sessions which produce few tangible outputs.
No surprises that only 12% of executives surveyed by Harvard Business School believed their management meetings consistently produced decisions on important strategic or organisational issues.
So how can we have more effective meetings?
1. Question the purpose
There are times where a meeting is required, but that shouldn’t stop you asking the question. Meetings tend to be geared towards people who like to talk through issues, which may not be the best environment for those who like some quiet time to reflect and plan. In many cases, a memo to the team or a few informal conversations can often get the same result.
Alternatively, try stand up meetings; they’re often far shorter and more productive when there’s no comfy chair and mug of coffee included.
2. Nail the Agenda
A meeting without an objective is doomed from the start. As meeting organiser, you need to be the one who sets out a clear agenda with objectives.
For decisions to be made, that may mean you need to send materials to attendees at least a day in advance. Some investment in time up front will save more in the end.
“A meeting consists of a group of people who have little to say – until after the meeting.” ― P.K. Shaw
3. Impose a phone ban
The chances of an important phone call needing to be taken within the short time of a meeting? Unlikely. Bringing phones, tablets and laptops into a meeting is too tempting a reaction for many – keep the focus by making it pen and notepad only.
Meetings are rarely scheduled on the same-day, so give people fair warning on the technology ban and ask attendees to consider rearranging any planned calls. Nothing derails a meeting better than someone who has to take a call mid-way through. “Where were we again?”
4. Be ruthless with timing
It’s irritating when attendees arrive in dribs and drabs. Time is precious, so start the meeting on time regardless if everyone has turned up. People will get the message soon enough, and your reputation as a highly organised person will soar!
The second part of the challenge is to finish on time. My advice? Never allocate an hour for a meeting that could very well last an hour. Half it, and stick to the agenda.
5. Don’t stray off course
As meeting organiser and chair, the hardest job can be stopping those one or two from taking up more than their fair share of time.
It can be tough when you don’t want to appear rude for interrupting, which is why it’s best to give warning at the start of the meeting that you will interject if things go off on a tangent. It may be a great point, but we need everyone’s opinion. If it’s that important, it can be another meeting for another time.
6. Appraise the meeting
Was it a SUCCESS? A strong word to describe a meeting, and yet given the amount of time we spend having them – up to 60 a month according to my research – this should be a question given a resounding YES!
So with this in mind, end the meeting with a couple of questions: What worked well? What can we do to improve our next meeting? Any comment can be set as an action to help structure your next meeting.