How To Make Your Meetings More Effective
By: Jay Mitchell
A question I like to ask during an interview is, “What is your least favorite aspect of your current role?” Often, the answer is “meetings!”
In the worst cases, meetings are considered a waste of time that prevent meaningful work from getting done. At best, they are considered a necessary evil during the work week. However, collaboration and teamwork cannot be developed in isolation or with a lack of communication.
How can you begin to make your meetings an aspect of work that your team looks forward to rather than dreads?
1. Audit your team.
Through an audit or anonymous survey, ask each of your team members to tally up the hours they have spent in meetings. Specifically ask about how many meetings they have per week, and who they’re with. Ask them also to identify the purpose for each meeting. How many were simply to communicate information?
Next, survey your team about their thoughts on the meetings. I find that many leaders are often somewhat oblivious to how their teams feel regarding weekly meetings.
Don’t ask questions if you don’t want answers. Chances are, your team has thought about this and will have some great ideas about how to improve the quality of your meetings.
2. Eliminate unnecessary meetings.
Your survey and audit may identify some specific meetings that no longer serve their original purpose and are truly time-wasters. End them. Or make them optional to staff members who are not specifically needed in the meeting.
3. Keep it short.
I’ve never heard anyone complain about a short meeting, especially when the purpose of the meeting was simply to deliver information.
There will be times when your whole team will need to meet to talk about things that are critical to learn about together so that everyone gets the same information at the same time. In this instance, give your team the critical information they need as briefly as possible and then follow up with a more detailed email or allow managers to talk through the details with their individual teams.
4. Target your collaborative meetings.
The best use of meeting time is solving problems together. Collaborative meetings should be targeted around a specific problem or issue that needs solving rather than a laundry list of problems that will take all day to solve. Focus on just one or two issues that your team can sink their teeth into. Include only those team members who have a real investment in solving the problem or have unique vision/problem solving skills. Not everyone needs to be in every meeting!
5. Make your blue-sky meetings longer.
Every once in a while, teams need to step back from their day-to-day routines to dream about the future of the staff and the future of the organization. Here at Vanderbloemen, we make this an intentional effort. Once a year, we temporarily put our tasks on hold and have an all-staff onsite retreat where we tackle big picture items and dream about our future. Everyone is engaged, on board, and knows their voice will be heard. We might even say that this is one of our favorite meetings of the year. We manage our time wisely and don’t waste a minute – even when we are having fun over a meal.
6. Have fun!
Many people dread meetings because they are dry, boring, and not at all enjoyable. What are some ways that you can bring some fun to your meetings? Can you bring some fun competition to the meeting? How about a fun video to start?
7. Communicate and act upon the decisions that are made.
One reason I’ve often heard why people dislike meetings is that the ideas discussed in those meetings never go beyond the meeting. Decisions are made in a meeting but not communicated to the rest of the team. Or worse, decisions are made but no one is given responsibility to shepherd that decision through implementation.
8. Evaluate, review, and adjust.
Take time at least twice a year to evaluate how you are doing with your meeting structures. Have new meetings crept into your schedule? How are people feeling about the meetings they are attending? What changes do we need to make to make our meetings matter more?
Meetings are necessary but they don’t need to be a waste of time or a source of frustration to your team. In fact, they can be a catalyst for team unity, vision implementation, and growth.
How has your team planned more effective meetings?