Work Meetings: Productivity Maker or Time-Waster?

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Work Meetings: Productivity Maker or Time-Waster?

Leaders often report having ‘too many meetings’ but can’t explain what’s accomplished by attending them. Turn your meeting from time-wasters to productivity makers with these 6 steps to worthwhile meetings. 

Imagine: Your second employee calls in for the day, you have an upset customer waiting to talk to you, and a project deadline seems impossible to meet with all the crises that keep arising. You reach out to your boss for help, but all you get is a short message reply: “in a meeting.”  

Gah!! Are you kidding me?! What’s the big deal with all the meetings?

This scenario plays out every day in workplaces across the country. 

The constant tension between getting things done and getting everyone on the same page often has Managers (and staff!) wondering whether meetings are productivity makers or time-wasters. 

When working with leaders 1:1, I often hear they have too many meetings, but they can’t explain what’s accomplished by attending them. They unknowingly seem to contribute to the inefficiencies and have no idea how to step off the meeting treadmill.  

Most managers are good at the daily huddles, the quick meetings that focus on what work needs to be accomplished for the day.  

But what they don’t spend energy on is figuring out what’s missing from the team, intentional team building, getting group projects accomplished, or executing initiatives.  More often than not, it’s because they have no idea where even to start. 

There is a hard truth in most workplaces: Just because a person is given the title of Manager does not mean they know how to lead effective meetings.

How do you know if your meetings are hitting the mark?  Use the six key steps below to ensure your meetings are a productivity maker, not a time-waster.

Six Steps to Worthwhile Meetings 

  1. PURPOSE: What is the purpose of the meeting?

Put this into your words, and this should always be your focus when you create agendas, etc.  Is the meeting:

    • One-time or event-driven
    • Team
    • Cross-functional (may work on a specific project, task, or initiative)
  1. PEOPLE: Who should attend the meeting? 
    • Keep the list as small as possible but still covering all the key people. 
    • Clear invitation, so they understand why the meeting is needed and share its purpose. This is your opportunity to show them why it’s of value to them to attend and participate. Terms like mandatory never go over well; all that shows is you struggle to get buy-in.
    • Other attendees: As you begin meeting, you’ll need to be intentional when you invite someone to cover a specific topic, but avoid overrunning your meeting with inessential guests ‘dropping in.’
  2. PREPARATION: Meeting ground rules, clear goals, running agendas, and action items.
    • Make a list of what you want to cover in the meeting, who will lead that topic, and give them the allotted time. This is the agenda that you hand out at the start of the meeting. 
    • You will take that same agenda and expand it for your eyes only. It will include 1-2 key speaking notes for each topic and what you hope to achieve (are you educating, informing, discussing, asking for support, making a decision, taking feedback for a later date, etc.)
    • Don’t take time to discuss something if a decision has already been made and you have no say in changing it. This can be frustrating if you allow a team to express themselves for 30 minutes and at the end, you say, ‘Well it’s not my decision.’
    • Work at least one week ahead at a time
  3. LOGISTICS: Meeting frequency, day, time, length, location, and format (in-person or virtual). 
    • START and stop on time or schedule another meeting but don’t go over ‘just because we had a good discussion.’ You need to respect others’ time, meaning you keep within the agreed-upon time. 
  4. ROLES :
    • Official: 
      • Organizer/Facilitator (typically the owner of the meeting and person who compiles and creates the agendas and leads the meeting) – this is you.
      • Timekeeper (keeps the meeting on task to what the agenda is) – do you have someone in the meeting that would feel comfortable doing this?
      • Notetaker (keeps notes on action items to share with the group afterward to eliminate meetings after the meetings or people walking away without clear action steps) – try to choose someone great with capturing notes, staying on task, and being consistent. 
    • Unofficial meeting roles: to name a few- part of leading a meeting is learning how to address the unofficial meeting roles effectively.
      • the talker (has something to say about every topic that is brought up)
      • the controller (wants to take over the meeting with their own agenda)
      • the disrupter (challenges what others are saying and often takes the meeting on different tangents)
      • the late arriver (late from another meeting or doesn’t respect others’ time)
      • the distracted (on their phone either scrolling social media or checking emails)

Meetings can take on a life of their own and you need to keep up with the changes to ensure it’s staying on track. Periodically do a check-in:

      • Does the meeting still meet its original purpose?
      • Are the right people still in the meeting? 
      • Are you making progress with meeting goals?

With ongoing meetings, preparation is the area you will focus on weekly, along with keeping tabs on official and unofficial meeting roles. The other areas you will review periodically. That helps ensure the meeting still meets its purpose, the appropriate people are attending, and the logistics are doable for the team. I believe many meetings start off fulfilling initial expectations but begin to shift off their tracks, which creates the feeling that meetings are wasting time instead of providing value.

Initially, it’s going to feel like a lot of extra work –I get it, I’ve been there. What I can say confidently is when I chose to consistently prepare and keep tabs on the meeting value I always saw a positive return. I’ve seen the same positive results numerous times when my clients have followed this process.

Danielle Rusch; Senior HR Consultant

Everything DiSC® Certified Trainer

P.S. Tired of feeling as if your meetings are not getting you the results you want? 

Schedule time with me to share your top 3 challenges and learn one thing you can do to start turning this around now. 

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