Is your organization plagued by too many meetings?
No wonder! Meetings are easily used as a solution to most business issues. Scheduling a meeting to discuss a problem feels like you’re making progress. But at the same time, meetings are not a solution to most problems. In fact, it’s safe to say that they have the opposite effect. In the United States, 11 million meetings are organized every day. 63% of those meetings don’t have an agenda, and 45% are informational staff meetings. According to employees, 33.4% of meeting time feels unproductive. It’s clear that meetings are misused in many organizations.
Your organization doesn’t need all that meeting time. Most issues could be dealt with outside of the meeting room. Before scheduling a meeting or accepting a meeting request, you should carefully consider whether it’s the right thing to use your time on. Not sure where to begin? Here’s how:
Managers: Here’s how to determine if you need to hold a meeting
Unnecessary meetings are bad management on many levels. For example, meetings have an impact on employee retention. Additionally, they mean decreased productivity. Every month, professionals lose around 31 hours on meetings. It goes without saying that to become an effective manager, you need to limit the amount of meetings that are held in your organization. Before you schedule another meeting, make sure you have answered the following questions:
Why do you want to hold the meeting?
Define the purpose of this meeting. What’s the goal and desired outcome? Be as specific as possible. To justify a meeting, you should be able to pinpoint the outcome. For example, if the goal is to reach a certain decision, the meeting is necessary. But if you can’t specify the purpose and you want to discuss an issue without any agenda or goal, you should reconsider if the meeting is necessary. Instead, think of alternative and more effective ways to discuss the issue.
Have you thought things through?
It’s easy to set up a meeting to get your colleagues’ input on an issue. But before you do it, sit down and evaluate whether you’ve thought things through. Have you considered all the aspects of the issue you want to discuss? If the answer is no, a meeting might not be what you need right now. Instead, set aside time to think strategically about the issue. When you’ve done that, you might realize that you don’t need a meeting with your colleagues, and that a short email will do.
Do you really need a face-to-face meeting?
If there’s a more effective way for you get your questions answered, you shouldn’t hold a meeting. For example, walking by a co-worker’s workstation to ask a question might be a quicker solution to your problem than scheduling a meeting. Or use Slack, chat or email. The point is that these tools require less time than setting up a meeting, you’ll get your answer faster, and your co-workers don’t have to use time on a meeting.
Is now the best time to hold the meeting?
Meetings do feel like important work. But at the same time, you should objectively consider whether you have all the information you need in order to hold a meeting right now. For example, a co-worker who’s a key person in your project might not be present, or some vital information might be missing. In that case, you should wait until you have all the information you need to schedule the meeting.
Do you really need more than 30 minutes?
The standard meeting time is around 60 minutes. That’s why it’s easy to schedule this amount of time without considering any alternatives. Do you really need that much time? Many times, you don’t need more than 30 minutes. Remember, if you schedule less time, there’s a chance that your co-workers will respect that time limit. Subsequently, you hold a more effective meeting.
What would happen if the meeting wasn’t held?
A good way to determine whether a meeting is necessary is to consider how senior managers or team members would react if your meeting would be canceled. Would you be able to get the information you need another way? Would your co-workers demand that you reschedule the meeting? If you notice that the meeting is indispensable, you should schedule it. But if you realize that your co-workers don’t really care about your meeting, you should consider canceling the meeting.
Employees: Here’s how to determine if you need to attend a meeting
As an employee, meaningless meetings are the worst. You’ve probably endured your fair share of unproductive meetings. These meetings are a major time suck, and you should carefully consider whether you’re really required to attend them.
Obviously, you’re not always in the position to decline a meeting invitation. However, by highlighting how unproductive these meetings are, you have a better shot at convincing your manager to let you focus on more important tasks.
But how do you know whether you should attend a meeting? Answer these questions before you accept an invitation:
Do you know why you’re invited and what’s expected of you?
If you don’t know what’s expected of you, you’re probably not needed in the meeting room. Only people who’re needed to achieve meeting goals should attend the meeting. If you’re attending a meeting without really having a role in it, your presence shouldn’t be required.
For example, if you’re attending a meeting to keep on track with a project, you’re not indispensable for the meeting. Your co-workers can fill you in after the meeting. Instead of attending the meeting, you can get much more important work done.
But what should you do if you’re invited to a meeting and don’t know why your co-worker sent you the invitation? Ask for more specification before you accept the invitation to make sure that you need to be in the meeting room. You can ask the organizer to send you a short email with a brief that you can review and if necessary, respond to through email.
What’s the goal and purpose of the meeting?
When you attend a meeting, you should know what the goal and purpose are of that meeting. Otherwise, it’s wasted time. If you don’t have an agenda in front of you before the meeting starts, you shouldn’t be required to attend the meeting. After all, you can’t prepare for your meeting so you can’t really be expected to have an input. If you’re invited to a meeting that doesn’t have a goal or purpose, ask the person who’s responsible for the meeting to set clear goals before you accept the invitation.
Does the outcome impact you?
Sometimes, your expertise isn’t required for a meeting. However, your presence might be required because the outcome impacts you. In some situations, it might not be feasible to update you through email or instant messaging. In these situations, the meeting is necessary even if you don’t have a clear role. At the same time, you should make sure that there’s an agenda and that the meeting has a goal.
Is someone responsible for preparing the meeting?
All meetings should be prepared by a person who’s responsible for the meeting. That person should handle the planning of the meeting like sending agendas and making sure that every participant knows what’s expected of them. If no one’s responsible for the meeting, it’s likely that the meeting won’t have any clear value. After all, participants won’t be on the same page when they enter the meeting room.
What happens if you don’t attend the meeting?
Consider the scenario that you’ll be unable to attend the meeting. Would that mean that the other meeting participants wouldn’t be able to hold the meeting? If the meeting has to be postponed due to your non-attendance, the meeting is necessary. If your presence isn’t required for the meeting to be held, there’s no reason why you should accept the meeting invitation.
Do you have too many meetings at your organization? My guess is that you do. While they can seem like a small nuisance, meetings have a major impact on your team’s performance. Meaningless meetings affect things like workplace productivity and employee satisfaction. As a manager, you need to ensure that every meeting that you organize is necessary. As an employee, you need to consider whether your participation is required or if there’s a more effective way to participate in the discussion and receive the information. In the meantime, let me know:
What steps will you take to ensure that the meetings you organize or attend are necessary for you and your co-workers? Leave a comment below!