Calendar invites haven’t changed in the last two decades. Name a meeting, toss in a date and time, add some email addresses and away they go! As I review my personal, speaking and business calendars, what disappoints me the most is the lost productivity I generally see with each meeting. As a busy entrepreneur and consultant, my time is my most valuable commodity. Losing even an hour of productivity each week is income lost or overtime gained.
The COVID-19 crisis is straining office productivity. Now, more than ever, it’s essential that leaders utilize meetings effectively. If there’s anything positive that can come from this pandemic, it’s that companies have an opportunity to transform their culture as we all work remotely. Meetings are now a centerpiece to our collaboration, innovation and efficiency.
What’s Your ROMI (Return On Meeting Investment)?
While working as a product manager years ago, I stopped attending meetings. My colleagues were both jealous and in awe that I would decline meetings on a daily basis. At one point, my VP came out out of his office and asked if it were true that I was declining meeting invitations. The rest of my team smiled and listened to the conversation. When I answered that I was declining, he responded with how he’d seen a dramatic output in my work and told me to carry on. My team was shocked.
Now, as a consultant sitting in boardrooms, I am amazed at the overall cost of meetings and the associated loss in productivity that goes with them. If your average meeting has six to 10 executives and is scheduled weekly, your meeting times are costing you upwards of half a million dollars. Are you getting the appropriate return on investment for that time?
How To Fix Your Meeting Productivity
Over the years, I’ve learned to reduce my meeting times and the number of meetings I attend and thus have drastically improved my productivity. Here’s how you can, too:
• Use a calendaring platform where people can see your open windows to meet and select a convenient time. This cuts back and forth on the 14 emails that go between attendees to pick a time.
• Schedule very specific windows for meetings to ensure you can get your work done. I block out every other time, requiring anyone who has a conflict to communicate the urgency to me.
• Block out a buffer before and after each meeting to ensure you have time to travel or knock out requests that you can take care of immediately.
• Before accepting a meeting invitation, ask specifically why you need to be in attendance.
• Before accepting a meeting invitation, ask what the goal of the meeting is.
• Before accepting a meeting, request an agenda with a breakdown of what needs to be accomplished at specific points. An example may be: five minutes to review the last meeting’s action item, 15 minutes to discuss a problem, 15 minutes to develop a solution and 10 minutes to develop the action plan.
• In the meeting, voice your concern if the meeting sways from the topic or the agenda.
• At the end of the meeting, request an action plan of who is going to get what completed and when they will get them completed by.
How To Fix Your Organization’s Meeting Culture
Many companies within my industry work on a retainer basis with their consultants. All too often, I watch as budgets with large consulting agencies are eaten up by meetings instead of deliverables. Meetings are a necessity with large companies to identify and remove roadblocks, build collaboration and get the people in the room that may be impacted by a decision. However, an unnecessary meeting can add tasks, delay projects and consensus can even become the lowest common denominator in a decision cycle, producing the least impactful change.
Companies need to adopt a culture of discipline to ensure meetings are productive:
• Avoid or restrict your employees from scheduling repeat meetings. By scheduling and setting goals for each meeting, every meeting is deemed as important.
• Empower your employees to decline meetings. Your employees shouldn’t feel compelled to attend every meeting they’re invited to, especially if they don’t understand why they need to attend.
• When meetings are properly communicated and scheduled, encourage employees to turn notifications off on their mobile devices and laptops so everyone’s attention is focused on the goal of the meeting.
• Assign a gatekeeper to each meeting to ensure the meeting is kept on topic.
• Assign a timekeeper to each meeting to ensure the agenda is kept on time.
• Assign a scribe to capture and distribute meeting notes and action plans.
• Hold your employees accountable for unnecessarily scheduling meetings, inviting people that are unnecessary and not meeting action plans.
Now, if we could only get Microsoft and Google to enhance our meeting scheduling capabilities. Wouldn’t it be nice to have mandatory fields for meetings as well as processes for approving a meeting? If you follow these tips, I can assure you that your schedules will be freed up and meetings will be far more productive.