MBA Musings: Make fewer meetings = more productivity
If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone complain about the frequency of or lack of productivity in meetings at work, I would have been able to retire years ago. Lots of people complain about meetings, but that's because lots of people are missing key components when they plan the meeting. As explained in our text, there are at least three building blocks that are vital for productive meetings (Lussier & Achua, 2016).
Have clear objectives
Nobody likes to meet for the sake of meeting. It's a waste of time and a huge drain on productivity. I like to start my meetings with a very explicit statement. "The intention for this meeting is to walk out of here with very clear goals and a shared understanding about..."
Present an agenda
This seems simple enough, but it is often overlooked, in my experience. Sharing an agenda can help ensure people feel informed. I like to take it a step further than the agenda and ask attendees to do a bit of pre-work before the meeting (Forbes Coaches Council, 2016). This gets the meeting juices flowing a bit and, in my experiences, increases feelings of ownership and investment in the outcomes and the processes to get there.
Wrap up, summarize and review
Have you ever left a meeting and felt like you had no idea what the bottom line was? So have I. It's frustrating and can also result in apathy. I might want to care about a project, but if I have no line of sight and no further investment, the items discussed in that meeting will probably fall way down on my priority list if not off the radar altogether. Every meeting should be ended in a way that cultivates accountability and agreement. This makes it possible to achieve shared goals.
On my current team, the vast majority of my colleagues do not work in San Francisco where I sit. Because of this, I often have meetings with my boss and my peers via Zoom. Video conferencing is great because it allows us to interact in a way that is a bit more natural and engaging. Knowing that so much of what we communicate is through our body language, I appreciate being able to see one another.
I did recently have a meeting that truly should have been about two or three email exchanges. It would have been very simple to just share the information that way. Instead, the person scheduled a 30-minute meeting. We were done after about seven minutes and quickly wrapped up. Looking back on it, I should have held the line and suggested we settle the matter either via email or, at the most, via phone. The outcomes were that she was going to email me some data that I requested via email. So, yes, email could have been the medium for the entire conversation.
So before sending out that next invitation, we should all be sure we have covered all of our bases. If the objectives are unclear, the agenda is nonexistent, and it's uncertain what the "homework" will be afterward, reconsider whether or not a meeting is the right way to move your team and your project forward.
Forbes Coaches Council. (2016, June 30). 14 Tips For Leading A More Effective Meeting. Retrieved June 6, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2016/06/30/14-tips-to-lead-and-facilitate-meetings-more-effectively/#140ef2762342 Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2016). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development(6th ed.). Australia: Cengage Learning.