When people come to your meetings, do they say “This is a meeting I never miss” (MINM) or do they say, “This is just another meeting” (JAM)?
Unproductive meetings gobble up an estimated 20% of corporate payrolls, throwing away $420 billion a year. American business people engage in an estimated 11 million meetings every workday. According to research conducted by Bain & Company, 15 percent of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings, a number that has increased steadily since 2008. One company’s weekly senior leadership meeting directly consumed 7,000 hours per year for the attendees – but 300,000 hours companywide among subordinates in preparation and related meetings.
Before you call another meeting, ask yourself:
- What’s the outcome I want from this meeting? The more people know what “deliverables” should come from the meeting, the more focus you can bring to the conversations.
- Is there a more effective way of getting the results without a meeting?
- Who REALLY needs to be involved?
- When is the optimum time to have it and what time limit shall I set?
Sounds silly, but agendas make a huge difference. And forget ‘old business.” Who ever got excited about starting a meeting with “old business?” If it has relevancy to current situations, it is not “old”—it is pressing business!
The skills of running an effective meeting can easily be learned. These skills involve gatekeeping (i.e. making sure that one person does not monopolize the meeting), summarizing the points, calling for decisions, establishing protocols, and keeping discussion on track.
However, there are times when one needs someone else to conduct a meeting. The more emotion that is connected to a meeting, the more complex the issues, the more it behooves you to consider using a facilitator. A wise facilitator creates a setting that makes it “safe” for people to speak their truth. A facilitator creates a process around whatever is the desired outcome of the meeting and can hold people to the task.
A talented and experienced outside facilitator will make it a practice of interviewing the participants beforehand and creating a composite of the various “common threads” of concern. In this fashion, no one person is singled out and the meeting can get down to the important elements. Likewise, a professional external facilitator will have no political agenda or job security hanging in the balance. Thus, it they are free to focus totally on helping the participants reach their outcome.
Time is the most precious commodity we have. Time-wasting meetings constitute the greatest theft of all. Conduct them well and judiciously and you’ll hear people say, “We’ve got to START meeting like this!”