The other day I had a phone call from a lady I’ve been working with currently. She was incredibly frustrated as she described the three meetings that she had attended that particular day.
“Nothing gets achieved, Barbara. We all just sit around to discuss what needs to happen and then discuss the next meeting. We spend more time talking about the latest TV show then getting anything done. It’s driving me nuts, as I just don’t see the point!”
Unfortunately going to endless meetings is a frustration that I hear about all the time. You start work on a Monday morning to find that without even trying your diary is packed with back to back meetings. Your day is spent going from one to another whilst trying to complete snippets of work throughout the day, desperately trying to keep on top of your ever growing ‘to do’ list or even squeezing in enough time to eat a sandwich.
I’m sure we all agree that going to one meeting after another is just a necessary evil if they prove to be productive, but if they’re not they can just leave you feeling drained, frustrated, stressed and that you’ve wasted your time and achieved absolutely nothing.
Meetings generally are a great way to get a number of people around a table to discuss a common topic. At best they are incredibly productive and a great time saving device as many decisions can be made quickly, actions assigned and deadlines agreed.
At worst they do none of these and just serve to waste time. I’m sure I’m not alone in the experience of attending a meeting with no fixed purpose, a lot of procrastination and even too much time chatting about topics that are not relevant.
In order for a meeting to be productive it has to have a purpose – a valid reason for everyone to give up their time to attend.
So, next time you get invited to attend a meeting – ask yourself these questions:
What is the purpose of this meeting and what will be achieved?
Every meeting has to have a point, a reason for it being held in the first place. Unfortunately for many meetings this is left unclear, and although it may have a project title, it doesn’t articulate exactly why the meeting is being held and what is expected to be achieved. Before agreeing to attend a meeting, understand its point, and at the very least you can start to prepare properly beforehand.
What contribution am I expected to give and why do I need to attend?
Now that you understand the reason behind the meeting, the next step is to decide whether you actually need to attend or not. There may be situations where the chair is unclear of who would be the best person to attend, so invites the manager of a particular department, rather than the subject matter expert. You may also become the ‘go to’ person for that particular department and find yourself being invited to meetings unnecessarily.
Have a think about the contribution you are expected to give, and if you’re unsure, ask. You can then decide whether you need to attend at all or if you can contribute in some other way.
Do I need to attend all of the meetings?
Sometimes when we’re invited to be on a project group there is the assumption that we have to attend all of the meetings. This doesn’t have to be the case. Speak to the chair and explain that you’re happy to be involved and to be kept in the loop with the minutes, however, you only plan to attend the meetings where you can add most value.
Can one of my team attend in my place as a development opportunity?
It may be that the time is right for you to start to delegate some of your meetings to a member of your team. This is a great way to develop someone else, but also a fantastic way to free up some of your time. Don’t forget to be available for support should they need it.
And finally, if you do find yourself in a meeting that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, don’t be afraid to nudge the conversation back on track. Others will definitely thank you for it.