Very often, people think that a full calendar is a proxy for productivity. A daily planner packed with meetings seems to satisfy most managers. However, more often than not, supervisors and team leaders are more productive when they are not spending all day in meetings. Their time is actually better used when they are working with their team, bringing real measurable results.
Here’s the cold data
It is a mistake to assume that keeping a public company for your managers will somehow encourage productivity. In reality, it only gives you a false sense of control knowing when and what everyone is doing. A packed calendar won’t make anyone fulfill their goals any faster.
Data shows that executives nowadays spend an average of 23 hours in meetings, compared to just 10 hours in the 1960s. Out of 182 senior managers surveyed:
- 65% claim that meetings prevent them from completing their work
- 71% think these are inefficient and unproductive
- 64% said they interrupt the deep thinking process
- 62% consider that a meeting is a missed opportunity to foster team relationships.
That’s a bit discouraging, don’t you think?! So, the question is…
To meet or not to meet?
Almost everyone hates staff meetings and most people find them a waste of time. Yet, the same people think of them as a necessary evil that provides some benefits too: they encourage team bonding, information exchange, and enable collaboration.
So what is the best approach and how should you handle team meetings to avoid wasting time and making people resent you? We put together some advice.
Schedule fewer meetings
Unless there are last-minute urgent matters to be discussed, try keeping the number of your weekly meetings down to not more than two. In order to attend them, people sacrifice time they could have used to get their work done. More so, frequent meetings can cause team relationships to deteriorate when not everyone attends or participates.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, maybe you should take a closer look at the costs of running a meeting. Harvard Business Review developed a tool that helps you estimate the cost of your meetings. Hint: a weekly mid-level managers meeting can cost your company up to $15 million a year!
Make sure your meetings are effective
Ineffective meetings are a waste of time. Make sure you have a protocol in place for how meetings should be run. Send the paperwork beforehand, set clear goals, and, most importantly, stick to an agenda.
Read more on this topic in our previous article: Improve Team Meetings for Better Collaboration and Higher Productivity
Keep them short
The average length of corporate meetings is one hour. However, most of that time is often spent discussing unproductive topics. Cut that time in half to no more than 30 minutes.
Besides the obvious time saving, this will also make people stay on topic and only discuss important matters.
Collect individual data
Send out surveys or conduct interviews to find out everyone’s input regarding your team meetings. This is the most straightforward way to get to the bottom of the problem and get feedback that will help you improve your strategy.
Talk about it
As ironic as it might sound, having a meeting about meetings is actually a logical step. Once you have the individual input for your team members, gather everyone around and have an honest and open conversation about it.
Interpreting the data together is a constructive way to find a solution that’s best for (almost) everyone.
Give everyone some relief by being flexible when scheduling the meetings. Declare certain periods meeting free so people can focus on their work. If your company needs often meetings, allow each team member a free pass to miss a meeting once in a while.
Set in place a protocol to have the missing participants informed by their peers. This will help them understand each other better and bond more closely.
Encourage focused participation
A lot of meeting time is wasted when people get distracted and things need to be repeated or the poor understanding of the tasks generates problems. Prevent that from happening by encouraging active participation and setting up rules such as no devices allowed.
Active participation requires each attendant to be more than just a passive bystander. Waiting for their turn to speak and the expectation to be involved will encourage people to stay focused and promote a better understanding of the discussion.
The no devices rule prevents distractions. Companies that employed this have seen meetings becoming more productive and participants more engaged. Instead of checking social media or playing games on their phones, people actually started bringing notebooks and taking notes during the meetings.
Rely on technology
You won’t need frequent meetings if people can keep in touch with each other all day long. All you need is a reliable team communication app that allows your people to work together and talk openly about both work-related issues and also personal matters and feelings.
When you do need to hold meetings, having them online is the easiest solution, especially during the pandemic. Compared to face-to-face, online meetings are more cost- and time-effective for everyone involved.
Pulse-checking is a method that allows leaders to find out how their people feel about their work, the company protocols, and monitor the progress of change.
Start each meeting by going around the table and invite everyone to answer the same questions regarding their current mood, their opinion about their work, teamwork, or company practices. Listen to their insight and make changes in accordance.
Key takeaways on smart meetings
With meetings being seen as a necessary evil by most people, smart companies take steps to reduce their length and frequency while increasing their efficiency.
To do that, it’s important to consider constructive feedback from the employees, be flexible, encourage participation, and rely on technology.
And always remember to keep out of a meeting anything that should have been an email, a chat, or the good old phone call 😉