Have a question or comment? Connect with me at Julie.shipman@jwsgroupllc.com

Meetings are dumb. People hate them. Why? Let me count the ways:

  • There is no agenda and no clear objective for the meeting.
  • The person who called the meeting is not prepared, has technology problems or can’t keep the assembled group on task.
  • The purpose of the meeting is actually for political jockeying or grandstanding.
  • Everyone in the room is not necessary for the purpose of the meeting.
  • Attendees are late, ill-prepared, distracted by smart phones or uncertain why they are there.
  • Team members are being disciplined or publicly shamed in some twisted brand of “peer pressure to improve performance” format from the 90s. Coffee is NOT just for closers.
  • An email communication would have been just as effective.
  • A 1:1 meeting that rehashes the same information each week.
  • And my personal favorite: monthly team meetings run by insecure or micro-managers who use meetings to show their importance by parceling out information to their underlings. Just silly.

If you call a meeting and no one is prepared, people arrive late, they provide little (useful) information or you cannot accomplish your objective, you have just hosted a dumb meeting.

Harvard Business Review referenced a study conducted by Steven Rogelberg at the University of North Carolina. To read the full article from HBR visit: https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness.

Steven and his team conducted a survey of 182 senior managers in 2017. The findings, while not surprising, are concerning:

  • 65% of those surveyed believed that meetings kept them from getting their real (emphasis mine) work done
  • 71% said meeting are unproductive and inefficient…… 71%!!
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking
  • 62% said meetings miss the opportunity to bring the team together

That last bullet is the most disappointing of all. Can we conclude that meetings actually drive teams apart?

Big emotive ideas aside, let’s put it in dollars and cents. According to Atlassian.com https://www.atlassian.com/time-wasting-at-work-infographic the average employee spends 31 hours per month in meetings, which costs a jaw dropping $37 billion annually in salary costs.

Stop. Really. Stop. Think about $37,000,000,000 one more time. This is just to attend the meeting; it does not speak to outcomes. What could those employees accomplish if they were doing something they (and their Managers) thought was more productive?

And so, because everyone who reads my blog is smart and introspective, ask yourself, how do you leverage that $37b?

Schedule meetings that aren’t dumb.

Well, ok that seems obvious but here’s how you do it:

Schedule meetings for 21 minutes. No, really, 21 minutes. Book them through Outlook or whatever scheduling platform you use and make sure they include an agenda. Every. Single. Time. If someone calls to ask what the meeting is about or why they are invited you are about to host a dumb meeting.

Let’s get back to 21 minutes. Why 21 minutes? Because people (including you) will adjust their content to the time they’ve been given (according to Atlassian.com). And 21 minutes lets them know they are attending to accomplish x quickly because you value their time and your own.

Think about the role that each attendee will play and why you are inviting them. No really, actually do that. Can you imagine how productive your time would be if someone did that same thing for you?

Never and I do mean never, schedule a meeting if you are struggling to put items on the agenda.

If you don’t have something new to discuss or a decision to make, do not meet.

Start the meeting on time and end the meeting on time. If further discussion is needed have the discussing parties take it offline. If it involves the whole group schedule another meeting… for 21 minutes.

When you schedule your 1:1s with employees consider what you and they need. Is it a junior person who needs more time and coaching? Is it an experienced person who needs less time because they just need to keep you informed or need your input or approval on a decision? Is it someone in between? If so, what do they need from you? Don’t just meet to rehash the same old stuff or chat about your personal life (see the February blog for more on that topic.) Make your 1:1 time valuable.

When you schedule your annual (don’t hold them quarterly or semi-annually) off-site planning meeting, make sure that the goals and format are clear, your speakers are presenting on interesting and relevant topics, and you include some time for fun. If the fun is truly fun, your team will bond without you having to do anything. That’s a smart meeting.

Sit back and watch for prompt responses to your meeting invitations and on-time arrivals. No one will be 10 minutes late to a 21 minute meeting. They aren’t going to want to miss 50% of what is discussed.

And for all that is good and right in the world, check monthly that reoccurring meetings are still necessary. If not, cancel them. You can always book a new series when the need arises.

Finally, remember these are meetings. They are not the conversations you have with colleagues and employees throughout the day. They are not the emails you send or the lunches you schedule. Those interactions, don’t lose those, just make them count.



Bottom line: If you are taking people’s time make it worthwhile – and that means your time, too.