What's the most wasteful part of your workday? Some say it's meetings, meetings, and more meetings, many held needlessly or with the wrong people in attendance or run so loosely that nothing gets accomplished. When a meeting is not managed well on all levels, attendees tune out; they turn to their smartphones and computers to answer emails or look busy.
They're there in body but not in mind.
That's the most significant waste of all. It deprives an organization of the discovery of issues and solutions, disadvantages and ideas, innovations and insight. As bad as it is to waste the time of employees, it's even worse to waste their intellectual and experiential power, yet that's what a poorly managed meeting does.
Following the ten tips below can help you avoid such waste. They can help you obtain the value you seek from a meeting—engaged and involved participants, better processes and proposals, effective plans and ideas, thoroughly considered decisions.
1. First, determine that a meeting is the best way to accomplish your objectives. If your objective is to disburse simple information, an email or intranet post might be a better choice. But when you need the interaction of minds and voices, chances are good that a well-run meeting will serve you and your employees better.
2. As you plan the meeting, clearly define its objectives and include them on the agenda, taking care not to list more than can reasonably be addressed in the time allowed.
3. Invite only those people whose presence is essential to accomplish the meeting's objectives. Being selective avoids wasting people's time.
4. Keep the number of people attending as small as possible, especially when decisions are to be made. Otherwise, you will find it impossible to reach a decision in the time available.
5. Follow the agenda. In advance, construct and distribute one that designates action items and includes time limits on discussion. Make sure that participants do not stray from the item under discussion, and do not hesitate to close discussion on an item by reviewing decisions, action steps, responsibilities, and deadlines.
6. Run the meeting firmly but amicably. Never criticize an employee in front of other participants; never make or allow disparaging remarks about others' comments. Make sure that everyone feels accepted and part of the meeting. Solicit comment from quieter participants.
7. Chair actively. Encourage discussion and feedback. Ask questions. Summarize. Check your understanding against that of participants.
8. Give people a chance to leave when the points on the agenda that affect them have been closed. This gives them more time to undertake and complete the work that awaits them.
9. Before the meeting ends, clearly outline expected follow-up and next steps. Follow up with a written reminder.
10. Whenever possible, rotate the chairing of meetings among employees. Doing so gives you more time for other things and gives your staff practice in honing their management skills.
Companies and organizations are fond of saying that their employees are their greatest assets. In many senses, that claim is true. Help them grow, and your business will, too. A good meeting is a good investment for both.