Do you spend too much time in unproductive meetings?

Having personally experienced ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of meetings, I know that a successful meeting can make a real difference to your teams’ performance and wellbeing. However, this only happens when you put the necessary time into the planning and reviewing.

Here are my top 5 questions to be considered when holding or attending any meeting to make sure that you and your team get the most out of it.

  1. Why are you holding the meeting, what is it specifically going to achieve, what are its objectives? If it is not clear in your mind why you are convening the meeting, it will never be clear in the minds of your team members. Likewise if you are attending a meeting you are not chairing and you don’t know what it is meant to achieve, there is a high probability that most other attendees are in the ‘same boat’ and it will be unproductive. As a general rule, the fewer the meeting objectives, the better.
  2. Who needs to be there and why? What are their specific roles and responsibilities? Are the key contributors pre-positioned? Again as a general rule, the fewer people attending, the better the outcomes.
  3. What pre-work are the participants required to complete? How much time will it take them? When will it be circulated? Do you need anything returned in advance of the meeting? Having insightful, relevant and robust data can transform the effectiveness of decision making and leave people feeling more confident and bought into the decisions. At risk of stating the obvious the pre-work needs to align with the meeting objectives.
  4. How will the meeting be run? Is both the content AND the process planned in advance and clear in the participants’ minds? How much of the meeting will be information sharing, how much discussion and how will decisions be made? How much time will be allocated to each topic or session, are the domestics planned and taken care of? Is there an agenda with time slots? As a general rule, the shorter the presentations/ information sharing the better, meetings should be focused on discussions where everyone is encouraged to contribute resulting in collective good quality decision making.
  5. And finally we need to consider the ‘so what’, what will happen next? Is there clarity around the agreed action points and decisions? What are the next steps, decisions and timelines? Are they summarised verbally at the end of the meeting and do they need to be circulated in a written format afterwards? Is there clarity around who is accountable for the individual actions and next steps? How will these actions be reviewed ongoing?

By spending time on these questions, in advance of any meetings, will ensure that your meetings are both productive and energising and that the quality of the decision making will be enhanced. It will also enhance your teams collective decision making and lead to higher levels of buy in, ownership and engagement.

And finally, one last thought. Remove ‘any other competent business’ (AOCB) from your agendas as it encourages ‘bad practices’ e.g. poor planning and negatively impacts timekeeping and agenda management. Many people try to squeeze a 30 minute topic into a 5 minute AOCB item, they tend to come ‘left field’ so the other meeting participants are not in a prepared position to discuss the topic, the decisions are often rushed and people typically leave feeling frustrated. If participants wish to raise a particular topic in the meeting, they should be encouraged to ask for an agenda slot in advance of the meeting so that it can be given the appropriate time and the session planned properly as previously discussed. Remember there is a direct correlation between the quality of your team’s decision making and their resulting performance.