Transform Pointless Meetings into Productive Teamwork

Team meetings are an inevitable part of the average employee’s schedule. But regardless of their frequency, just how productive are those meetings? And how many prove to be pointless meetings?

Transform Pointless Meetings into Productive Teamwork

The state of team meetings

The state of team meetings in our post-COVID business landscape can be easily summed up according to the latest Work Trend Index:

  • Weekly meetings increased by 153 percent across the globe in 2022.
  • Meeting declines increased by 84 percent over the last two years.
  • Meeting overlaps or conflicts per attendee increased by 46 percent.
  • Attendees who actively multitask in meetings increased by 42 percent.

In essence, the volume of meetings has soared within these last few years. Yet, the amount of productivity in most meetings is on a sharp decline. So what’s the solution? Is it possible to transform pointless meetings from useless time-wasters into collaborative opportunities?

Whether you lead a remote or onsite team, here’s how to reclaim productive workflow and achieve successful outcomes in your next meeting.

Ask yourself some questions

This could have been an email.” Sure, it’s a witty meme on social media—but it’s also a valid complaint from workers who already have a slew of tasks on their calendars. A recent survey of more than 2,800 U.S. employees found that 83 percent are in meetings for 4 to 12 hours each week. This can cause mental exhaustion which, in turn, slows performance.

What accounts for those long hours on video calls or in the conference room? It comes down to the number of attendees, the survey found. A meeting with 3 to 6 attendees is usually less than 30 minutes, while a meeting with at least 20 often clocks in at upwards of 70 minutes.

Given this time commitment, it’s not hard to see why teams want a more efficient method. Before you schedule a meeting, ask these questions to determine if it’s truly necessary:

  • What particular issue will this meeting cover?
  • Is it crucial enough to pause other work activities?
  • What do I want to achieve from this meeting?
  • Who absolutely needs to be part of the discussion?

Set a clear agenda and share it with attendees

Establish your ideal outcome and create an agenda to help you meet your objective. Consider the talking points and when there’s intel you need to share, questions you need to answer, plans you need to flesh out, strategies you need to fine-tune, or problems you need to resolve.

Outline all that information in the agenda, so you’ll have a clear direction for this meeting and maximize the time allotted.

Email your agenda to the team members who will be part of this meeting at least 24 hours in advance. This will provide them with some context on the subject at hand, so they can enter the meeting with useful ideas or input to share. When everyone knows what to expect, the dialogue itself will flow constructively, and it’ll be easier to stay on-topic.

Make sure everyone is able to contribute

Your team members are not spectators in the workplace—they’re contributors and stakeholders. To optimize efficiency, team meetings must be interactive. It’s crucial to ensure that all employees have a fair and equal chance to speak, rather than allowing just a few opinions to dominate the conversation. This promotes a culture of safety, inclusion, camaraderie, alignment, collaboration, diversity of thought, and mutual respect.

According to a Workforce Institute survey, 71 percent of employees are more effective at their jobs when they feel heard, but 63 percent think their voices are ignored by those in leadership. It’s on you to set the tone for a meeting; thus create an environment where each voice matters and each idea has value.

Here’s how to encourage your team members to feel confident and comfortable sharing their unique points of view in the meeting.

  • Hold all team members (including yourself) accountable to a no interruptions rule.
  • Choose someone who doesn’t normally talk, then direct a question to them by name.
  • Be comfortable with silence, so your team members can formulate their thoughts.
  • Give all team members an opportunity to lead presentations or brainstorm sessions.
  • Welcome relevant feedback, then respond with curiosity rather than defensiveness.
  • Model team inclusion—respectfully (but firmly) call out toxic dynamics in real-time.

And so, when participants contribute and use their time constructively, pointless meetings become teamwork.

Close the meeting with a few actionable steps

Before the meeting is officially over, determine your call to action as a team. It’s a waste of time when a conversation ends in ambiguity, and no one knows what to do next. A concrete plan will ensure that everyone is on the same page, so iron out a list of measurable goals you want to achieve and a realistic timeline to reach those benchmarks. Next, form a collaborative blueprint and agree on specific action items for each team member.

It’s just as vital to exit the meeting with clear takeaways as it is to enter with a game plan. No matter how many creative ideas or brilliant strategies you develop in the meeting, without the next steps, your team won’t be able to execute. Including employees in this process will also establish collective buy-in which reinforces successful teamwork.

Retool your meetings for collaboration and productivity

Efficient meetings create more opportunities for team collaboration. In turn, these can boost performance metrics across the board. You no longer have to settle for pointless meetings that waste valuable time without accomplishing real objectives.

Use these simple, actionable productivity hacks to transform your team meetings from pointless to productive. And, in order to further boost your work performance, I recommend you to read our monthly series—The Productivity Box, you’ll thank me later 😉

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