We all spend a lot of time in meetings, and consider them to be “necessary evils”. But, are they all “necessary”, and are they really necessarily “evil”?
First ask yourself, “How much time do managers typically spend in meetings”?
Although estimates vary, studies show that executives typically spend 50% of their time in meetings and middle managers spend 33%.
Complementary research, from the University of North Carolina, is both surprising and disturbing. Work by Rogelberg et al. (2007) revealed the following:
“A staggering 65% of meeting participants expressed that meetings interrupt their workflow, while an even larger 71% deemed meetings as both unproductive and inefficient. To top it off, 64% revealed that meetings are robbing them of valuable time for deep thinking and reflection.”
What can we do to improve things for the better?
The following suggestions are based on my own experience from earlier in my career. Based on your own experiences, do you feel that these suggestions are still valid today? And are there other points you’d add to factor in our digital world?
1. First, get the basics right!
Start by critically evaluating how you currently run your meetings:
– Do you invite the right people to participate?
– Do you sometimes include others who do not need to be there for every meeting?
– Does everybody have to be there for the full meeting or just part-time?
– Do you have absolute clarity around the agenda, give participants enough time to prepare, and start and finish on time?
– Do you provide comprehensive minutes issued shortly after the meeting, with clear action points as to who should do what, by when, and hold each team member accountable for their agreed actions?
– Do you periodically canvas participants to see how your meetings could be improved?
2. Model the communication behavior you want to encourage and/or eliminate from your meetings.
– Avoid defence/attack behaviour – Keep an open mind for innovative ideas and avoid the highly destructive cycle of attack/defence behavior, be it of ideas and/or the differences arising from team diversity.
“What a crazy idea—it will never work!”
“We’ve tried that before and it never worked.”
– Control any one person who is being too dominant – Control too much proposing by any one person, especially the leader, and ensure that you bring the less vocal and introverted team members into any dialogue.
– Test understanding – Make sure there is no ambiguity or misunderstanding during or after the discussion.
“Let me see if I am understanding you correctly. You think we should significantly cut expenses and you feel that the best way to do this with the least harm to morale would be to temporarily put everyone on a four-day week, including management, until this crisis is over, rather than letting anybody go?”
– Summarise – Pull things together and summarize, particularly after lengthy or complicated discussions.
– Build—encourage building on others’ ideas – Look for opportunities to build on others’ idea [s], as opposed to suggesting another idea oneself. This is one of the most powerful and most underused communication skills.
“That’s a brilliant idea Joan and if we combine it with our next trade show, we could get even more mileage from our customers.”
The benefits of implementing these ideas include:
– Shorter, more productive meetings
– Better team bonding
– More fun(!)
Something to consider: Will AI replace meetings?
In the age of AI being adopted in nearly every major sector of the economy and given the easy access to ChatGPT, will meetings become a thing of the past?
Innovative, imaginative, face-to-face meetings provide uniquely human opportunities to tap into our emotions and the power of connecting with colleagues and coming up with amazing new ideas that can’t be replicated (at least for now!) by AI.
About the Author: Tim Rooney MBA has been a trainer, mentor, life-coach and business consultant for over 20 years since running national companies like AAB Building Systems, PolyGram Records Canada and PolyGram Brazil. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-472-0894
Clark, D., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2023, April 25). 5 ways to future-proof your career in the age of AI. https://hbr.org/2023/04/5-ways-to-future-proof-your-career-in-the-age-of-ai
Perlow, L. A., Hadley, C. N., & Eun, E. (2017). Stop the meeting madness. Harvard Business Review, 95(July/August), 62–69. https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness
Rogelberg, S. G., Scott, C., & Kello, J. (2007). The science and fiction of meetings. MIT Sloan Management Review, 48(2), 18–21. https://orgscience.charlotte.edu/sites/orgscience.charlotte.edu/files/media/Rogelberg%20et%20al.%20-%202007%20-%20The%20science%20and%20fiction%20of%20meetings.pdf
Viter, I. (2023, February 9). Unproductive meetings under the microscope: Statistics that demand attention. Runn. https://www.runn.io/blog/unproductive-meetings-statistics