A common refrain I hear from the leaders I work with is that they have no time to think or get work done because they are in back-to-back meetings all day, every day. When they share their calendar with me, it looks like a LEGO toy with colorful blocks from the beginning of each day to the end. I’ve seen even worse in some cases, where these blocks overlap one another! This has been exacerbated in the virtual, remote work environment.
The issue is further complicated by poor meeting management. Too many meetings do not have a clear purpose; do not have a written agenda; and do not have a carefully curated list of attendees. When this is coupled with a culture that encourages those invited to a meeting to accept the invitation, we end up with a great deal of frustration and wasted time.
Before setting up a meeting, determine the purpose of the meeting. As you do so, evaluate whether a meeting is the best vehicle to accomplish this purpose. For example, if your purpose is to communicate a new policy, might an email or even a short video be a better option?
If you’ve determined that the best way to accomplish your goal is through a meeting, your next step is to consider who should participate. Note here that I said “participate,” not “attend.” Each person invited should understand why their participation is important to accomplishing your goal for the meeting.
Facilitation of a well-run meeting begins with a well-planned agenda, being thoughtful about how to most effectively use the time allotted for the meeting. The facilitator’s role is not only to keep the participants focused on the task at hand, this may mean capturing “parking lot items” (those topics that warrant attention, just not during this meeting), but also ensuring that decisions made and next steps are documented at the conclusion of the meeting.
As a leader, you can help to reduce the frustration and overwhelm associated with meeting overload. Begin by being more deliberate about the meetings you choose to call or attend. Role model for your organization how to be more effective and productive by being intentional about the time you spend in meetings.