Do Our Meetings Just Create More Meetings?

We're all too familiar with time draining meetings, but with a good leader they can be incredibly productive by interacting with colleagues.

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We’re all too familiar with time draining meetings, but with a good leader they can be incredibly productive

There’s a funny commercial Google put together when it was introducing the world to a Google Hangout a few years ago. The spot consists of a self-assured moderator shooting down repeated suggestions from colleagues to “follow up” and suggestions to “ping later” or needing to“regroup.” With a Google Hangout, productivity increases exponentially – or so we are led to believe.

Clever advertising aside, the commercial does raise a number of interesting questions:

How productive are meetings?
Do we meet, just so that we can meet again?
This matters because according to a recent survey by software firm Clarizen, the “average American office worker spends more than nine hours of every week preparing for, or attending, project update meetings.”

That’s roughly one fourth of a 40-hour-work-week. And as we all know, time is money.

Not every meeting is pointless. We know that when meetings are well run, they can be incredibly useful. Decisions are made. Orders are handed down. Purpose and objectives are defined. And then there are the intangibles like reading your colleague’s body language and tone. Things that email and even phone calls cannot match.

But when run poorly (think Michael Scott from The Office), meetings are an incredible waste of time. According to the experts, “poorly run meetings grind away at employee engagement.”

Absolutely. I can think of numerous instances where meetings devolved into petty discussions about individual personalities or going off into tangents that had absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. I am sure that you can think of examples in your own professional life when you experienced the same.

So what’s the answer?

In a nutshell, you need an effective leader.

Part of the answer is having a no-nonsense (at least during the meeting) manager that has a laser-like focus of what’s needed from the meeting. The right questions are being asked. And only the most pertinent information to the group is being shared.

Google commercial

And here’s where that Google commercial is spot on. Instead of instinctively tabling discussions to deal with an issue that requires input from the group, or from certain team members, why not use this meeting to come up with an answer? Granted, there are times when this can’t be done, but too often, the impulse at meetings is to put off making important decisions.

Finally, here’s another tip.

Try limiting meetings to an hour. A former colleague once told me that people start losing interest after an hour – no matter how interesting the discussion. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Well-run meetings will rarely exceed an hour. And if there are more agenda items to discuss after that one hour, why not take a break before reconvening.

As someone with a mild case of technophobia, I find interacting with colleagues incredibly useful. Besides building camaraderie, I am convinced that a meeting is the setting where the most important decisions for a company take place.

With that in mind, let’s resist the urge to use meetings as a cover to appear busy or to use the entire meeting to recap last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory. Let’s leave that for Happy Hour.

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