Everyone hates meetings. What if you had 5 actionable tips to make your meetings more productive?
The problem isn’t that we don’t know what to do. The problem is a combination of culture and complacency. We accept inefficiency because our culture has allowed it and our fear of conflict normalizes it.
I will never forget a meeting I attended a few years ago. To be honest, I only attended because my boss invited me (and I didn’t have a choice). When I showed up, I wasn’t entirely clear why we were meeting or who was leading. I felt unprepared and uncertain.
The meeting ended up starting late. We had lots of discussion and each person gave an update; however, no one knew what our goal was, where we were going, or why we were even meeting. Towards the end of the meeting, we were all tired. So many things had been discussed, and we weren’t entirely clear on any action items. It wasn’t apparent why we had gotten together in the first place. I left frustrated, confused, tired, and defeated. It felt like a waste of an entire afternoon.
Has this ever happened to you? I guarantee most everyone has experience at least parts of this scenario and can relate to a degree. I’m very thankful my current team has a tendency to operate with much more intentionality than this meeting from years ago.
Take a look at the 5 tips to make your meetings more productive below and share this article with one person from work. Even if you are the boss, you shouldn’t abruptly change everything without soliciting a little feedback. Get input from one other person and then commit to trying this approach out for a week, 2 weeks, or a month. You’ll be amazed at how different your workday and (more specifically) your meetings can become.
5 Tips to Make Your Meetings More Productive
1) Identify and Answer One Primary Question
Don’t try to get everything done at one meeting. I’ve found that a great way to prepare a meeting agenda is to ask what can be done OUTSIDE the meeting that doesn’t require input from multiple people. Trust me. You don’t need to discuss everything with everyone. Empower your team by clarifying what decisions can be made individually by team members (and which ones require input from the team or team leader). If everyone is afraid to make decisions, you likely haven’t been sufficiently clear about what decisions can and can’t be made without input from others.
So before you get together for a meeting, ask what your primary objective is for the meeting. Make sure everyone can clearly articulate the main question you are coming together to solve. Be clear that everyone is required to arrive at the meeting with potential solutions and ideas. No one can show up and simply observe. Everyone should contribute or else they will ask the question: “Why am I even here?”
Another reason to present a clear question is because no one wants to come together and only be told what to do. Take a coaching approach and arrange your meeting around a central question that the group can answer AND act on.
2) Schedule 15-30 Minute Meetings For a Week
Meetings are too long. I take that back….meetings are way too long.
Try reducing all your meetings to 15-30 minutes for a week. Reduce all of them, and 15 minutes is preferable.
There are a few instances where this may not be logistically possible, but often it is better to have a few short meetings that answer different questions than one long meeting that goes multiple hours. Get the job done and move on.
If you are interested in my personal preference, try shortening your meetings to 15 minutes. Laser-sharp clarity must precede any 15 minute meeting or else you won’t pull it off. For those that are overly relational, you will need to either apologize to others or prepare yourself in advance to “feel” or “think” you’ve been a jerk. The reality is that you saved the other person time and shouldn’t think you’ve acted like a jerk by focusing on the task at hand.
One notable exception to this tip is when involved with cross-cultural or multi-cultural meetings. Some cultures would look at you as having poor taste and lacking an interest in the people if you limited your meetings to 15 minutes. Make sure you know how those you are meeting with perceive and approach time before you setup the appointment. Cross-cultural meetings (like cross-cultural coaching) require a heightened awareness of cultural values that drive our thoughts, feelings, and actions along with those of the people we work with or relate to each day.
3) Be Clear On Who Is Leading and Why
I hate meetings without someone in charge. They inevitably take too long, and most people experience frustration by no clear decision maker. Have you ever been to one of those meetings? (A parallel to this is someone giving a speech that isn’t clear. It can drive an audience crazy.)
Some of you shudder when you read that first paragraph because it might sound rather autocratic and overly decisive. But it is poor management of people’s time, energy, and abilities to organize a meeting without a clear leader.
Identify the primary leader. If there isn’t one, ask who will be leading and be ready to follow. Without a leader, you will stall and meander without making progress like you would have otherwise.
4) Invite Only Essential Decision Makers
Don’t just invite everyone to the meeting to ensure no one gets excluded. Start explaining to people that you value their time too much to hold meetings that they really don’t need to attend. Also take a moment to send a brief summary to others about what was accomplished in your meetings so they can be kept in the loop.
Sometimes we think the entire team needs to attend every meeting, and I can understand this sentiment. But you are hurting your team in the long-term (and probably the short term) if you involve everyone.
5) Don’t Try To Keep Everyone Happy
I can’t remember where I first heard this statement, but if everyone is happy then you aren’t leading. If everyone is happy, you are probably exhausting yourself trying to please everyone and not focusing on what’s most important. If that’s the case, you are probably not actually pleasing everyone like you originally thought you were.
Your job as a leader or team member isn’t to make everyone happy. Add value to your team by doing what’s necessary to accomplish results. That might include reducing your availability for a meeting from an hour to 30 minutes, letting someone go from your team, or beginning a new routine to ensure you produce results in your own role and life. If you make any of these changes, be sure to stop and celebrate the small wins along the way.
How do you plan to use these tips to make your meetings more productive? What other ideas do you have?
Take action by ensuring you make at least one meeting more productive this week. In order to do so, forward this message to a colleague and share your thoughts. Build momentum towards making this type of intentional thinking part of the culture of your team.