Across the globe, managers and bosses continue to think employees are wasting time on social media, or online shopping or some form of the internet. In fact, a recent survey by Salary.com states that over 47% of the respondents said the biggest waste of their workday is in meetings, followed closely by “dealing with office politics (43%), while only 18% say they waste time on the internet.
There is nothing that can make a person roll their eyes faster and farther back in her head than when her boss pops her head in to the office and says “Hey, real quick meeting of the project team in 20 minutes…”
ALERT: Your planned morning of productivity has just been altered! Deadlines will get pushed. Toss your calendar out the window. So much for coming in early so that you can leave early for…a doctor’s appointment? The kid’s soccer game? Your sanity?
According to MeetingKing.com, researchers found that the more meetings employees attended, the more exhausted they felt and the higher they perceived their workload to be.
If over 37% of employee time is spent in meetings and the average manager attends over 60 meetings each month, why do we continue to have such bad meeting habits?
Because running a great meeting requires a change in our perspective. It requires us to think, plan and problem-solve ahead of time. It requires us to critically think about their purpose.
Here are 5 out of the box tips to move your meetings from time wasting overwhelm to inspired creativity.
#1 No-Meeting Mondays (or Tuesdays, or Thursdays…you choose)
The point here is to set aside at least one day where you and your company are meeting free. This allows your team to set a rhythm to their day. Following a rhythm, set by yourself, is the fastest way to increase your productivity. It allows you to be inspired, complete tasks and feel in control of your project goals and outcomes.
#2 Write it down, no more presentations!
Have your team write down prepared thoughts before the meeting. Jeff Bezos, the ultimate disrupter and CEO of Amazon, starts each meeting with up to 30 minutes of silence while the team reads through the narratives of the topics to be discussed. “Full sentences are harder to write […] They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking,” says Bezos
I suggest you go so far as to ban visual presentations all together. The problem with slide presentations is that it’s too easy to toss in “just one more slide”. It does not require critical thinking about what you want to say and your desired outcome.
Here’s a formula for a successful pre-meeting written narrative:
- Write out the problem – be specific!
- Write the solutions you’ve already tried and what worked
- Write what needs attention and what you want the group to solve with you
- Write how solving this problem will help your customers
There can be a lot of “problems” at work, but if you start to think about how the “real problem”, what you’ve tried and what, specifically you need from others, you can streamline meetings. Once you begin to think about solutions in terms of how it helps your customers, you will find that meetings become a place of inspired action!
#3 Cancel the meeting – what are the meetings REALLY costing you?
The biggest fallacy in holding a “quick meeting” is that it is really just 30, 60, 90 minutes. That’s true – if there is one person in the meeting! Multiply that among the number of people attending the meeting and you’ll get a sense of the real cost. Here is a fun calculator that will help you determine the REAL cost of your next meeting – and perhaps a great indicator of why you could cancel it:
#4 Limit distractions (and comfort)
This is the only time you’ll hear me advocate for restrictions. Turn in the cell phones at the door. Do not allow computers. Have people stand up for the meeting. Do ANYthing that limits that classroom environment where we are trained to check out.
There is little more annoying than trying to inspire creative problem-solving only to look out at a sea of people hiding behind their computers, probably checking email or trying to get other work done that they consider more important. If you found a problem important enough to gather people together to solve, ask them to be present.
Most importantly, limit the time of the meeting and stick to it!
#5 Define Your purpose
Short and simple. For EVERY meeting, define your purpose and desired outcome or cancel the meeting.
Bonus Tip – If you are holding a virtual meeting via one of the many video chat programs out there…make sure everyone knows how to use the program BEFORE the meeting begins.
And, as a courtesy, let your participants know well ahead of time if the video portion is required so that they can dress appropriately. That’s just polite on your part. I’ve been called to more than one meeting only to find out at the last minute they expect video chatting. UGH!
Meetings, when conducted well, are an amazing tool to have constructive conversations, solve problems, and make face-to-face plans and decisions. But if conducted poorly, it will be the #1 reason nobody mentions when they leave your company for good.