Are you someone or familiar with someone who races through the halls in a frantic attempt to make the next meeting on time while also answering emails on his or her mobile device?
Do you find yourself left with less time to do your core work?
Have you attended meetings with irrelevant agendas?
Have you conducted meetings with no idea how to measure its effectiveness?
“Let’s arrange a meeting” is quickly becoming a universal default response to most workplace challenges or problems. Conducting meetings with this approach results in a new workplace issue called: Meeting Fatigue!
Whether you have a problem at hand or are looking to get a status update on a recent initiative your team has undertaken, your natural reaction would be to call your team for a meeting if you are like most of us out there.
If not conducted carefully, meetings can waste a lot of Time and Money. Look at the below findings:
As per a research, Executives spend an average of 23 hours per week in meetings, where approximately 8 HOURS of those total meeting hours are a waste! Which is EQUAL TO OVER 2 MONTHS PER YEAR WASTED!
- There are 11 million formal meetings per day in the United States alone!
- 90% of People DAYDREAM in meetings
- 73% of employees admitted doing OTHER WORK in meetings!
- A meeting can cost upward of USD 1000 PER HOUR in Salary costs alone!
Another report found a huge gap between how leaders rate their meetings on effectiveness versus the attendees’ ratings. Leaders rated their meetings very favourably; however, the same was not true when attendees rated the meetings.
Poorly conducted meetings are fast becoming a severe issue! It has a direct Economic Impact on the company’s bottom line and leaves people disgruntled and disengaged. The low engagement has shown adverse effects on individual performance, innovation, teamwork, and overall work culture in the long term.
There are additional opportunity costs where employees are not working on other potential projects, which can be much more productive and revenue-generating.
75% of managers have never received any formal training on conducting a meeting.
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Managers failing to address the problem of Meeting fatigue can face many issues like:
- Their team’s performance is going down
- Low collaboration among team members
- Unable to provide meaningful work opportunities
- High attrition rate as talented people start leaving
- Erosion of their power and influence among key stakeholders
Looking at the above consequences, does this mean we should stop conducting meetings if they are not adding much value?
No! Carefully organized and conducted meetings can offer wonderful opportunities like:
- Vital to connect and build rapport
- Establish and promote consensus
- Bring a diverse range of ideas and options to the table
- Help build a strong team that is more coordinated and self-directing
The goal should not be to kill the concept of workplace meetings but to eliminate the meetings that are not required to move forward! To avoid the problem of Meeting Fatigue, Managers and Leaders need to learn how to diagnose their meeting problems and better prepare to engage their audience effectively.
We need to start focusing on building a system where managers and executives are well trained on the concept of effective meetings and regularly conducting feedback or ratings of people about the effectiveness of the meetings they are attending.
You cannot give other people what you don’t have. If you are unsure about your meetings and agendas, you cannot expect your meetings to deliver the desired results.
With the right system and thought process towards meetings in place, we can radically reduce the number of meetings we are conducting or attending at work and start focusing on getting more done.
Below given is a 6 steps framework to help you conduct meaningful and effective meetings.
Step 1: Do You Really Need a Meeting
Define the WHY of the meeting.
You have got an issue at hand. Your immediate natural reaction can be to schedule a meeting. However, before inviting others to a meeting; ask yourself the following questions to make sure you REALLY need a meeting to address the issue at hand:
- Have I given enough thought to the situation?
- Does it require external inputs or more strategic thinking on my end?
- Do I really need to involve multiple people for the inputs?
- Does it require a formal meeting, or can this be addressed quickly over a call, email, or online survey?
- Does it necessitate a face-to-face meeting?
Step 2: Make It Effective
Define WHAT & HOW of the meeting
If you have decided that conducting a meeting is required, then your next job is to ensure you know how you are going to make it effective.
To measure the effectiveness of your meeting, you need to first clearly define:
- The intent of the meeting: Here, you clearly define WHAT you are trying to achieve through this meeting. What is the exact problem or issue at hand you are trying to address? Do you expect participants to help you with strategic inputs or assist with the tactical implementation part? Define it clearly to ensure your and people’s focus is on the core issue throughout the meeting.
- Desired outcomes: At the end of the meeting HOW are you going to MEASURE the defined intent of the meeting has been met? These meeting outcomes should help you achieve your WHAT part of the meeting. At the end of the meeting, if you and the attendees are not clear about HOW you are going to achieve WHAT part, then either the group has not focused on the core agenda (the most common issue), OR you may need to schedule follow up meetings to make progress.
You should never call out for a meeting until you have a clear agenda and expected outcomes.
Step 3: Who Should be Invited
Lesser, the better! Once you are clear about why you need a meeting, you need to be equally clear about WHO should be invited to the meeting!
Meetings where invites are sent to almost everyone to avoid hurt feelings quickly become chaos!
By being very selective in who is invited to the meeting, you free people to join other vital engagements and stay focused on their most important tasks.
Please make sure your people understand that not inviting them is that you respect their precious time, which can be better utilized by working on other essential tasks.
Being selective also sends a clear message to the invited people that there is a clear reason behind inviting them. They are responsible for bringing their unique perspective to the table and making the meeting a success.
Make sure attendees are clear about their role in the meeting to better prepare for it. Lack of clarity about why someone is being invited to the meeting and inviting everyone to the meetings are the 2 top reasons for unproductive meetings.
Step 4: Set Meeting Schedule & Timeline
Make sure you set expectations about the duration of the meeting and its scheduled date and time in advance. Do you default to scheduling meetings that are hour-long or even longer?
You need to make sure you are scheduling meetings for the least “costly” time investment that still meets the intent of the meeting.
Step 5: Set Expectations Right
If you expect people to come prepared with their suggestions, then ensure you share relevant a pre-meeting look at the agenda in advance, and be clear with your expectations.
- Send a clear meeting agenda along with the meeting invite. So that people have time to reflect on it and bring value to the table.
- Make sure you request everyone to confirm their availability and their understanding about what is expected of them when they come to the meeting.
- Be clear about how you will start the meeting and engage the people on core issues. You should be ready with a plan to manage potential conflicts during the meeting.
- How will you ensure everyone feels safe speaking up and leaving feeling committed to the outcomes of the meeting.
- Have someone note critical points and decisions made during the meeting and circulate them across all the stakeholders involved.
These simple steps will ensure you start the meeting on time and with everyone on the same page.
Step 6: Assess The Effectiveness
After every meeting you run, take a few minutes to reflect on factors like:
- Were people clear about the agenda?
- Were people distracted?
- Did people come prepared as per the agenda?
- Who was doing most of the talking? Was it you?
- Was the discussion focused on the core agenda?
- Did you find a diverse set of opinions or similar?
- Were you able to stick to the schedule and set timelines for the meetings?
- Were you able to energize and engage the people?
- What topics caused the most engagement and why?
- Did the meeting do justification with the time of all involved stakeholders?
Reflecting on questions like the above and more will help you understand what is working and what is not.
CAUTION: Don’t limit this assessment only to yourself! You need to make sure you solicit feedback from people who were part of the meeting. You can achieve this by conducting follow-up one-to-one sessions or sending out 3 to 4 Qs online surveys. Please make sure you encourage people to share their candid feedback and appreciate those who take the time to do that.
When leaders assume their meetings are doing well, they are less likely to look for feedback and ways to make their meetings more effective. Reflecting on your own and solicited feedback will help you understand why a specific meeting worked or failed. With this knowledge, you can plan a strategy for future meetings to make them even more productive.
By following the above framework for conducting meetings, you will drastically cut down on the number of meetings your team is invited to and improve yourself over time in conducting effective meetings. This way, you will also set an example for others to follow.
This will free up lots of time at your and your team’s end to work on many productive activities. You will also find that your team can make fundamental decisions independently without looking for input from you every time.
Conducting workplace meetings might look like a small part of your job. However, doing this part right and effectively can bring substantial returns to your company, team and eventually to your career trajectory!
Being a leader, you need to take the responsibility to learn how to conduct effective meetings, even if no one is talking about this part in your company.
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