Meeting Madness: The Biggest Time Drainer in the Workplace

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By Michelle Burke, The Energy Catalyst Group

Most employees’ days are spent going from meeting to meeting. In fact, employees are spending so much time in meetings that there is no time left in the day to do their actual work. The reality is that ineffective meetings are becoming part of the problem.

How often have you been asked or worse required to attend a meeting and you had no idea the purpose of it? How often have you called a meeting without an agenda or clear objectives of what you want to get out of it? The truth is that most of us have experienced both sides of this proverbial coin and in fact, it has become the norm rather than the exception.

Furthermore, having an effective meeting seems to be one of the many great mysteries in the workplace. As a communication and team specialist, I hear the horror stories about their team members who continuously complain about how much time is wasted in meetings, and how little is achieved.

For example, how often do you personally run late for a meeting? How often do your co-workers run late? Is this basically an acceptable behavior in your company? Are you and others really prepared for the meeting? These are just a few of the main reasons why meetings are unproductive creating added stress and frustration.

Meetings are not just about showing up. It’s about being prepared, knowing the agenda so that you can fully participate whether it is to provide information, feedback, or brainstorm on a topic.

What if your meetings were not a waste of time and instead considered valuable. A lot can be accomplished and successful outcomes can be reached if the guidelines below are implemented.

Here are the recommended steps for an effective meeting. This is for any team member or leader who calls a meeting or participates in one.

1. The leader is responsible for setting the agenda and a positive tone for the meeting. Determine the purpose and outcomes of the meeting. Is it for planning a project, resolving a conflict or sharing information?

2. Establish how much time you have available because that will help you decide how much you can cover during the meeting.

3. Create a specific Agenda that can be accomplished in the allotted timeframe. If there is too much to review or discuss, then it’s most likely something will get dropped off.

4. Be sure to add extra time for potentially “hot” topics or stick to only one hot topic for the entire meeting to get resolution.

5. Decide if a facilitator is needed. It is highly recommended that any meeting over 60 minutes with more than 15 participants needs a “facilitator” to keep it on track and manage the time or designate a participant to keep track.

6. Choose an appropriate place and time that works for the attendees. If it is a long (two or more hours) meeting off-site, remember to include food and beverages as necessary.

7. Send (via email) the Agenda and include any action items for the attendees so that will allow them to prepare in advance. This will eliminate confusion.

8. Send a reminder the day before and ask for confirmation.

9. Set Ground Rules for the meeting to ensure it stays on track. Write the ground rules on a chart-pad or whiteboard for everyone to see during the meeting.

Sample ground rules include:

  • One person speaks at time (stops individuals from interrupting).
  • Be respectful
  • Stay open to other’s opinions, thoughts and ideas
  • Stay on topic – if it moves to another topic then write it down and add it to the next agenda
  • Ask one person to keep track of the time
  • Turn off cell-phones or laptops
  • Have fun!

10. Recap at the end of the meeting, remind attendees of their action steps and thank everyone for their participation.

If you make these small changes to your meetings, it will have a positive impact on your relationships, productivity and environment. You know when a meeting is successful when you are engaged, connected to the outcome and leave energized and propelled to take action.

About the Author: Michelle Burke is a Communication, Workplace and Team Specialist, published Author, Consultant, and Speaker. She is CEO of The Energy Catalyst Group dedicated to creating more positive and energized workplaces by helping teams be more collaborative, engaged and achieve peak performance. Her years’ experience working with Fortune 100, 500 companies, established her as a leading expert in bridging communication, gender and cultural gaps. She consults with clients using her 3-A Model: Awareness, Accountability and (purposeful) Action to focus on increasing individual, team and organizational energy. Clients include Stanford University, Microsoft, Visa, Disney, Sony, Receptos, Lanza Hair Care, Genentech, HTC, and Sony PlayStation. Michelle authored, The Valuable Office Professional, was featured in Business Week’s Frontier Magazine, LA Times, SF Chronicle, and Wall Street Journal. Her articles have been in Training, HR, and Chief Learning Officer Magazines. She also co-created Personalogy™ game that made Amazon’s Top 100 Best Selling Card Games of 2015. Please connect with her Michelle@energycatalystgroup.com.

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