Death by Meeting: The Silent Killer of Employee Productivity
How many days a week do you spend in back to back meetings? When I ask people this question, the answer that I receive most frequently is, “All day every day, I am lucky if I have one day that is meeting free”, followed by, “Often I have no idea why I am even a part of these meetings”. These same individuals are the ones coming in early, and logging late nights, because the endless meetings they are in, do not leave anytime for them to attend to their everyday job functions. As leaders of organizations this statement should send up red flags.
I have been in meetings, and often wondered why I was invited. I have also witnessed others in these same meetings, get that glazed “sleeping with their eyes open” look. How can we avoid, or help to mitigate this? Part of the issue is that we see being busy, as being productive. These are two completely different things. Just because someone looks busy, does not mean that they are being productive or effective.
When setting up a meeting, determine who really needs to be a part of the meeting. Does the entire department need to be there, or will one representative be sufficient? Do all departments need to be invited? Can the information, or discussion be communicated via an e-mail, allowing individuals to respond when they can take the time to craft a thoughtful response?
Have an agenda and stick to it. Having a road map will assist in keeping the conversation on track. Frequently one discussion can lead to another and another. Although these may be great discussions to have, everyone in your current group may not need to be a part of these other discussions. Stick to your agenda, and be respectful of those that are in attendance. Speaking of being respectful, always start and end your meetings on time. Remember people have other obligations besides your meeting.
If you are contributing to the conversation, do a mental check and ask yourself if what you are contributing is of benefit to the conversation. A colleague of mine uses the acronym WAIT, “Why am I Talking”, this self-check will help you to stay focused on the topic at hand and only contribute meaningful conversation. I heard about a meeting where someone wrote WAIT on a piece of paper and whenever someone got off topic another person would hold up the sign to help get the conversation back on track. It was all done in good fun and at the end of the day it was an effective tool.
Meetings are a necessary evil in business and do have a time and a place. They should be productive and respectful, not dreaded.