Meetings can bring staff together, inspire innovative solutions, engage employees, ensure clarity over company policy, and uncover trouble spots before they become too unwieldy. Meetings can also be a productivity drain. Research shows that many corporate executives are spending the equivalent of 23 hours in meetings, each week, with at least 8 of those hours being completely unproductive. The solution is not to ditch meetings, but to make them worthwhile.
In his Harvard Business Review article, “Why Your Meetings Stink—and What to Do About It,” business professor Steven G. Rogelberg writes that even successful owners and managers can still be poor at leading effective meetings. Too often, he claims, managers want to hold unnecessary meetings, or allow a few people to dominate the conversation, or fail to challenge staff to come up with creative solutions to pressing problems. Staff that are not fully engaged can have a significant opportunity cost on a business.
In other words, meetings are necessary but should be productive and creative. Rogelberg offers a few critical areas where owners and managers can significantly improve their meetings:
- Assessment: Managers should take a few minutes after each meeting to assess how well it went. Was open discussion allowed? Were people distracted? Were there sidebar conversations? Candidly assess how the meeting went and then work to improve future meetings.
- Preparation: Don’t just show up. Know why you called a meeting, define goals beforehand, and solicit agenda items from staff before the meeting. This is especially true for recurring meetings. Maybe you don’t need to have these every week? Also know who isn’t needed, as too many attendees can siderail an otherwise productive meeting. It can also be a good idea to hold meetings in different locations, if possible. This doesn’t mean off-site, but meetings can be held in other offices from time to time.
- Facilitation: You want to have everyone in attendance focused on the meeting—and on the reasons for the meeting. Greet them when they enter, acknowledge them, remind them to put away their phones. Everyone should be ‘present’ at the meeting. Then, be sure to engage attendees, ask questions, solicit opinions. Before the meeting is over, make sure they are each and all committed to the expected outcomes from the meeting.