Meandering Meetings

I know executives who routinely block out sections of their online calendars so they appear to be “booked” when, in fact, they just don’t want to be invited to any more meetings.

And who can blame them?

In most organizations, meetings are longer than they need to be, have no written agenda, and are completely pointless when there are no assigned action items at the conclusion.

Meandering meetings are a waste of everyone’s time.

Meetings: The Business Activity People Love to Hate

I don’t believe most people are purposely trying to waste others’ time. Even those certain people who always seem to schedule non-critical meetings during the lunch hour or at 4 p.m. on Fridays … they’re just adhering to the existing office culture.

Meeting AgendaNeed to show progress? Call a meeting. Need to “spread the responsibility” for a project or an initiative? Call a meeting. Need to make your lunchtime more productive? Call a meeting.

Many meetings are activity for the sake of activity, a way to make everyone feel as though something is being achieved when it is not.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There is plenty of advice out there on how to turn any meeting to your advantage (look at them as performance reviews), or how to reimagine your meeting “culture” to be more such as Apple or Google or other overachievers (tip: invite as few people as possible). All good stuff.

But I can simplify it for you. There are three things you can do to dramatically improve your chances of having a meaningful meeting.

  1. Have an agenda and distribute it ahead of time;
  2. Assign speaking roles with time-limits; assign a note-taker; and
  3. Summarize the meeting and assign action-items.

You can check out this new episode of “In Brief” to learn more.

Playing Hard to Get

When we were kids, my grandmother used to say, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to!”

(My brothers and I argued a lot).

Meetings are the same way. If you’re in a position to do so, consider declining any meeting if it isn’t directly relevant to your goals and objectives. Ask for a brief update from the meeting organizer afterward. You may discover you saved yourself quite a bit of time and didn’t miss much at all.

You’re welcome.

Want to know more about how to conduct better meetings? Check out The Brief Practitioner, an online course from The Brief Lab that teaches executives how to avoid information overload and become lean, effective leaders and communicators.


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