OK, so maybe it’s not actually one endless internal meeting that’s consuming your entire business day, draining your company’s resources and crushing the spirits of those around you. But it can sure feel that way.
In most of the companies I work for, meeting culture is out of control. Unnecessary meetings are needlessly scheduled, badly planned and horribly executed. Instead of providing clarity and moving critical initiatives forward, meeting culture creates even more confusion and uncertainty. Its principal outcome is more meetings. As a public service, here are a few rules and questions to help you end the madness of meeting culture and make the meetings you do end up holding productive and empowering.
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Do We Even Need a Meeting? The best meetings are sometimes the ones we don’t have at all. Many of your meetings are automatic: the weekly update, the kickoff meeting for the project and so on. Before hitting send on that calendar invite, ask the question: can we accomplish what we need to do without bringing everyone into the same physical or virtual space? You’ll be surprised how often the answer is yes.
Don’t Use Meetings to Convey Factual Information. If you can write it down briefly and clearly, don’t call a meeting to tell people the exact same stuff. And here’s a tip: if they won’t read your emails, they’re probably not going to really hear you in the meeting either. The problem may be your own.
Answer “Why?” With a Verb. Always ask “why are we having this meeting” (especially for the automatic ones) and challenge yourself to answer with an action verb. Meetings should be about doing stuff. Deciding. Planning. Prioritizing. Choosing. If the point of your meeting is to get everybody together or make sure everybody understands, then you’re setting up a pointless gathering.
Does It Have to Be a Half-Hour? And Do We Need to Sit Down? We always assume half-hour blocks for meetings, and we always book conference rooms. A ten-minute stand up meeting can force clarity and action you won’t get around a conference table.
No Electronics. If you simply have everyone leave their phones and laptops behind (or put them in a basket upon entering the meeting) you’ll have shorter, more productive meetings and breed a culture of respect and attention. Knowing that no one else in the meeting is accessing their devices actually creates a sense of calm resignation.
No Hop-Ons. There are almost always too many people in the meeting, and the reason they are there is too often political or based on fear of missing out. Keep meetings as small and tight as possible. And don’t be afraid to invite yourself to not attend a few of them. You’ll be delighted by the new time you find on your own calendar.
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