Some people would rather watch paint dry than attend a meeting. What’s the answer?
Think of the last meeting you ran or attended. Would you say it was purposeful, mindful or even useful? Did you leave feeling energised? Could you say it was a good use of your time? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you are among the lucky 10 per cent who believe that meetings make a positive difference to their work.
Most of us will find ourselves with the other 90 per cent who say that meetings are frequently wasteful, woeful and painful.
One study suggests that people would rather watch paint dry than attend a workplace meeting and 8 per cent of responders say they’d rather endure a root canal.
Obviously, we need meetings and when they work, they’re valuable. Clear actions are agreed, decisions are made and the whole business moves forward. So, how do you make your meetings more meaningful? Here are five suggestions.
Go technology free
How often have you noticed people in meetings checking their phones or laptops, sometimes not even subtly. Some can’t even manage without their devices for 60 minutes. Speakers in the meeting read this as a lack of interest in what they’re saying, which contributes to a feeling of disrespect and can create all kinds of angst and HR issues after the meeting.
You’re not properly participating in the meeting when you’re pretending to do one thing and actually doing another. You’re also probably not responding to your email or text very well either.
Announce the meeting as a tech-free zone. Meetings should be unplugged: no phones, laptops or tablets allowed, even for taking notes.
Rein in conversation hijackers
Do you know someone who always seems to hijack the meeting, chewing up time talking about something that should probably be talked about elsewhere (be honest: is it you)? There always seems to be one person with the louder voice, wasting air time, irrespective of whether it was on the agenda or not.
Having a process and a structure to facilitate the discussion means that everyone can contribute evenly and you can plan your free-flowing conversations effectively. You can eliminate this issue by nominating a chair who has the right to interrupt and park non-relevant issues.
Change the frequency
Many of the HR managers I work with complain that they spend all day in meetings and can’t get any tasks accomplished. Daily back-to-back meetings mean you’re usually left working until 8 or 9pm on ‘real’ work.
Too often, I’ve heard people say that their evenings are spent catching up on work or emails they’ve missed, when they should be with their families, friends or enjoying leisure time. This madness has got to stop! As an HR manager, you need to have, and hold everyone accountable to, a meeting strategy before you organise to meet.
Ask yourself this question: are you meeting to share information, make a decision or come up with a solution to a problem? If you can’t tick one of these boxes then you might want to reconsider taking a chunk out of people’s day.
In an organisation I once worked with, the managers claimed that you weren’t technically late until 14 minutes after the start time. Being this late was not just expected, it was an accepted cultural norm. This was obviously having a big impact on the effectiveness and productivity in meetings.
Not being punctual can be interpreted as a lack of respect for others’ time and it can affect team dynamics. Most meetings are booked for an hour, and if you’re late, it eats into everyone’s time.
What’s the antidote? Show up on time! Start meetings at the exact time scheduled, irrespective of who is in the room. Don’t tolerate anything else. Everyone will soon get the standard that is expected.
Have a clear agenda
One of the top pet peeves of people who attend meetings is that they usually don’t understand why they’re even there. Without a clear and focused agenda, your team don’t know how to prepare for the meeting, which means they waste time when they arrive with pointless chit-chat. Everyone who attends needs to know what outcome is expected from the meeting.
Prepare and share an agenda 24 hours before you meet to give everyone time to show up prepared and with any reports or documents that they need to contribute.
Donna McGeorge is a speaker, author and mentor.
Give your team the tools and techniques to manage time productively and constructively with the AHRI corporate training course ‘Managing time and workloads’.