Have you ever been sitting in a meeting thinking "This is such a waste of my time!"
Or, worse…have you ever been in a meeting when most of the participants are tapping away on their smart phones, not even paying attention to the person speaking?
In her new book, Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers, Sharlyn Lauby says employees spend between 21 and 28 hours a week in meetings and this number continues to rise in double-digit percentages. For those of us who want work life balance, much of our time spent in meetings is unproductive.
So, what can be done about that?
Lauby, author of HR Bartender and president of ITM Group, Inc., a training company focused on talent engagement, outlines different types of meetings and how to run them effectively (She does an amazing job!). I pulled out some of her suggestions and presented them as questions .
- What's the meeting really about? Lauby says the first rule of meetings is to understand why a meeting is being held and what role each person plays towards the meeting's success. People will attend meetings when they understand the reason for them. They will participate and engage if they feel they are a part of the agenda.
- Why am I at this meeting? People need to know the reason they're being asked to attend the meeting and the purpose of the meeting. (Is the purpose to convey information, reach a decision, get feedback?) They also need to know their role in the meeting's success and the objective that is trying to be achieved.
- What kind of meeting is it? Is it a status meeting, a strategy meeting, a problem solving meeting, a brainstorming meeting, a networking meeting, a training meeting, a pitch meeting, a project meeting? Each meeting has a different purpose and different rules. Status meetings should be focused on conveying information. When there is no information to share, the meeting should be cancelled. This truly demonstrates respect for participants and eliminates ineffective meetings.
- Are the right people in the room? What a waste of time to hold a meeting when the right people aren't there! Going in, a manager needs to know if there a problem solver at the meeting or a decision maker. He needs to look at whether a meeting facilitator is needed and whether senior leadership should be present. Without the right people, a meeting could go on for what seems like forever or end without a solution. But inviting the people who don't need to be there wastes time as well. People can participate in the process without attending the meeting.
- What's the solution or outcome? A business meeting can be completely ineffective if the solution arrived at is unattainable or the participants have no clue who is going to implement the action steps. Lauby says in thinking about the implementation plan, the group might want to consider breaking down the solution into smaller components or milestones. It becomes easier to monitor and evaluate results. She says at the end of any meeting, participants should be on the same page regarding the following three things: The actions that need to take place outside of the meeting, the individuals responsible for those actions, the timeframe for accomplishing the agreed upon actions.
- What makes a bad meeting? It's a bad meeting or time waster when the meeting leader is unprepared, meeting participants are unprepared, the wrong people are at the meeting, the participants take over the meeting or take it off track, and when the meeting runs much longer than necessary. Unfortunately, most of us have been at a bad meeting.
- What makes a good meeting? Well-run meetings provide valuable information, help companies solve problems, and allow employees to make better decisions. Participants leave with everyone on the same page.
Lauby told me as a manager, it should be your goal to have people leave your meeting and believe it was a good use of their time. "The biggest compliment a manager can get is when someone walks out and says, 'that was a great meeting,' Lauby says. "That should be your goal!"