Organizations must improve their ability to have productive meetings to become more successful. How can managers help bring meetings with a better outcome?
Meetings take up a lot of our time at work, but how much do they truly accomplish? According to Korn Ferry’s study, meetings rarely do what we set out to accomplish. Furthermore, more than two-thirds (67%) of employees report that spending too much time in meetings and on phone conversations prevented them from having an effective workday.
Organizations must improve their ability to have productive meetings to become more successful. This topic has been of much interest in the last few years. Are we getting better with our meetings and making them produce what we set out to create? So, what can leaders and managers do to help bring about better meeting results?
The Front Stage Meetings
1. Think of the meeting as the ‘front stage,’ and prepare for them by working hard on the ‘backstage.’ And don’t ignore the priorities.
“While many meetings are routine,” says Dr. Shameen Prashantham, professor of international business and strategy at China Europe International Business School and author of Gorillas Can Dance, “others feel there should still be an improvement to meetings on every level.”
2. Give yourself time to “check-in.”
We never start a meeting without ‘checking in,’ says Fiona Logan, CEO of Insights, a worldwide people development firm. Checking in with each person briefly enables participants to completely participate by discussing what’s on their minds, how they’re feeling, or what they want to gain from the meeting. Then the meeting becomes a time management situation.
Checking in, according to Logan, helps individuals understand and empathize with their colleagues, fostering connection and trust. It also allows them to change their mentality from before the meeting to where they need to be during the session.
“This promotes participant participation, which typically leads to a happy and effective meeting,” she explains. Logan also suggests scheduling 45-minute meetings instead of hour-long sessions since it keeps everyone engaged for the length of the discussion.
3. Focus on results rather than updates even when considering your new software or scheduling apps.
Suppose executives evaluate the expense of bringing their colleagues together for the conference. Some believe that meetings must provide at least twice as much value as they used to. Prepare by thinking about outputs, not updates, the next time you chair a meeting and make it as output-oriented as possible so that everyone arrives at the table with their thinking hat on and not their dinner plans.
4. Distribute reports ahead of time.
“Don’t waste meeting time presenting papers,” urges Annelise Ly, an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Economics and a CEMS Global Alliance in Management Education member. Instead, ask your partners to read information ahead of time and go right into the topic when you meet. The direct approach keeps people interested and cuts down on meeting time.
5. Take command of the discussion. Know when time is being wasted.
“Deep discussion and disagreement in meetings is a critical trait for creating innovation and ensuring that teams will grow and prosper,” says David Liddle, CEO of TCM and author of Transformational Culture. However, he cautions that heated debate may quickly devolve into something harmful and dysfunctional.
Managers can no longer afford to sit back and let the argument evolve. Instead, a manager needs to lead by taking on the role of facilitator. Liddle contends that providing safe places where open, honest debate can take place, and a variety of views can be put forth, leads to better team acceptance and fosters a tighter-knit group.
“Helping our people to disagree constructively,” says Liddle, “is the goal of healthy discussion.”
6. When gathering electronically, plan and speak in short spurts.
Everyone has had ‘Zoom fatigue,” says one prominent doctor of business, Dr. Amanda Nimon-Peters of Hult International Business School in the United Kingdom. Dr. Nimon-Peters is also the author of the forthcoming book Working With Influence. She continues, “That’s because, when we stupidly approach virtual meetings as if they were real meetings, they become tiresome and unpleasant.”
While our technology has advanced to allow for distant meetings, Nimon-Peters points out that our minds have not.
We suffer subconscious discomfort because of a perceived closeness that the simulated distance between video conference participants.
Successful online teams, according to Nimon-Peters, interact in bursts rather than in back-to-back, conference-length conversations. Participants must also plan ahead of time to make their time together as productive and interesting as possible.
Are all Meetings Poppycock?
Not at all. No meeting has to be futile or pointless. The key is to get to the main points of the meeting and get to it first. Be prepared ahead of time and never hesitate to redirect the conversation.
If things are not going as planned — don’t be afraid to close one door and open another — one that’s more productive. Don’t facilitate the time wasters, over-talkers, or indecisive ones. Instead, come with a plan, execute that plan — then leave on time.
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