This is how to have more productive meetings
Whether you are an entrepreneur, a CEO or a junior in the corporate ladder meetings are vital to a business. Fact.
According to a recent survey, if you’re a middle manager, you spend about 35 percent of your time in meetings, and as you progress in the corporate hierarchy and you move into upper management, meetings can take a whopping 50 percent of your time!
In fact, most executives consider more than 67 percent of the meetings they attend to be failures. If you have ever been to a meeting room, it is not hard to guess why:
1) Lack of purpose
Most of the times the issues discussed in a meeting would have been easier and faster resolved if individuals just spoke to each other.
The Harvard Business Review reports that 65 percent of meetings are called for information sharing instead of decision-making. Consequence, very few meetings consistently produce decisions on important organisational issues.
2) Fire fighting instead of strategy planning
Every other meeting has an urgent agenda item that needs to be discussed. So often, the fire fighting takes over the important items on the agenda, and meetings end late, and often without reaching important decisions.
Most of the participants in the room are usually multitasking, checking emails, walking out of the room on an urgent phone call, or doing other unrelated work.
4) Remote participants aren’t participating
It is usually hard for remote participants to be engaged in a call. Since they are not in the room, it is easier for them to get distracted and multi task. Given that 80 percent of the messages we communicate are through body language and only 20 percent through words, remote participants often have a disadvantage as they be missing the ‘feel’ in the room.
Meetings are so engrained in the corporate culture that we don’t usually question whether we really need them or not. If you ask yourself, “is a meeting really necessary, or is there another way I can resolve this?” you will realise that most times, it may be more efficient to just talk to the people you need help from.
There are however a number of meetings that cannot be avoided, for those one you need to ensure that you make them as focused, interactive and effective as possible.
Make your materials strategic
Before you set up an agenda, make sure you’re clear on the purpose of the meeting. Sharing information does not require a meeting, nor does a status update. The goal of most meetings should be decision-making and defining the way forward. Consequently, the items on the agenda as well as the supportive material should be predominantly forward-looking. Past looking reports can give an idea of performance to date but are not much help in shaping the future. Lastly, before including an item on the agenda, ask yourself: what is the impact this item has and how will its resolution impact the team’s / company’s future?
Circulate all material well in advance of the meeting and allocate a set time for discussion. During the meeting, consider all material read and focus your time on comments and actions.
Take items off line
The focus on each meeting should be on decisions, not discussions. As a result, discussions on operational details or on details that are not concerning the entire group in the room, should be taken off line.
Keep track of time
In every company, in every meeting there are people who just love the sound of their own voice. It’s the usual suspects in every meeting that will keep talking and derail the agenda, often making the meeting a place to air their work challenges. They will be the first ones to tell why something cannot be done, instead of how an issue can be resolved. If you are chairing a meeting, make sure you keep participants focused on the time and topic allocated. Equally issues are resolved in a timely manner, there are specific actions, with due dates and actions owners. What you want to avoid is having issues lingering unresolved on the agenda for a long period of time.
Focus on actions
Once the right issues and the right participants are on the table, the most important requirement for an effective meeting is to identify and evaluate viable alternatives to resolve any issues. While you should be aiming to resolve issues as quickly as you can you should not do so to the detriment of quality. You can’t make decision without any alternatives to evaluate. Harvard Business Review says that when it comes to decision-making, only 14 percent of the executives are consistently presented with any alternative strategies. So allow participants to go away and work on exploring more options, keep however a detailed list of actions, owners and deadlines and ensure participants understand what they are accountable for.
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Sophia Fromell is the Founder of Ithaca Life and is a certified Life Coach with a degree in Life Coaching Skills and Practice from Newcastle College, UK and a member of The International Coach Federation (ICF). The views expressed in her columns do not necessarily reflect those of Esquire or Hearst International