If there’s one thing almost everyone can agree on in the office, it’s the fact that we all spend too much time in meetings. While they’re an important communication tool, and essential for ensuring everyone is on the same page, they’re often overused, unproductive, and unappreciated. How many silent groans do you hear when you send out the email invitations for your team meetings? How many times have you silently groaned yourself, when yet another meeting comes up that you need to attend?
It’s not your imagination that you’re spending too much time in meetings. Middle managers spend up to 35% of their time in meetings, while upper managers can spend around 50%! That doesn’t leave much time for meaningful work—for you, or your team. Here are 6 tips to help you reduce the time you’re spending in unproductive meetings. Becoming a meeting master is one of the best things you can do for your team’s productivity!
- Reduce the Number, Increase the Quality
You can’t always control how many meetings you’re invited to by your colleagues and bosses, but you can help reduce the number of meetings that are scheduled in a few ways. First, you can evaluate the meetings you’re responsible for scheduling, and see if you can consolidate, streamline, or even cut out some of them entirely. Do you really need a weekly team meeting? Think about reducing the frequency of “check-in meetings for a more efficient workplace. Ensure that there is a written schedule ahead of time, and make sure to set a time goal. This will help people know what to expect, and allow everyone to come prepared.
As for meetings you’re asked to attend, you may want to try tactfully asking how helpful your presence will be to the meeting. Sometimes, there’s not much point in you sitting in, and if you can gracefully bow out without ruffling feathers, it’s best to do so.
- Fight Back Against Groupthink
Groupthink can kill the productivity in your meetings. When everyone agrees just to get things moving along, it can hurt the generation of innovative ideas. To fight back against groupthink, anticipate it. Consider nominating people to present ideas, and have everyone provide positive and critical feedback in a structured exercise. You can also nominate a “devil’s advocate” that rotates each meeting. This person’s role is to fight back against groupthink by questioning others’ ideas in a constructive manner.
- Make Positive Associations
Does everyone dread Wednesday’s meeting? Try making it more positive by adding something to look forward to. Think about bringing in coffee and pastries for everyone to enjoy during the meeting, or organize a team activity for everyone to enjoy once business has been dealt with. You could even let people go home a half hour early as an incentive if they come up with a big idea. Whatever it takes to spice meetings up a bit to help your peers look forward to meeting.
- Only Invite Relevant Parties, and Encourage Preparation
How many times have you found yourself stuck in a meeting in which you are irrelevant? Don’t do this to your team. Think about who really needs to discuss your supply chain or hiring practices. Besides curating the guest list, encouraging people to prepare for the meeting will help everything become more productive and efficient, while also cutting back on potential staff conflicts.
- Use Meetings to Launch Innovation
The best ideas aren’t often generated during the meetings themselves, but during individual brainstorming sessions. Try using meetings to develop talent and launch innovation efforts, rather than generating them. Group brainstorming sessions can be a great jumping-off point, and assigning exercises or providing inspiration during your meeting can be a better use of time than trying to nail down the specifics in a single meeting. Creativity is sometimes a solitary activity, and you can use subsequent meetings to evaluate and hone the ideas that come from your team.
- Recognize People and Gain Feedback
Recognition is a powerful force in the workplace, and it’s often forgotten in the everyday shuffle of office life. Make giving recognition during meetings a tradition, and your team may feel less anxious and reluctant about their attendance. Public recognition is great for morale, and transcends generational differences, gender, and other factors—everyone appreciates their hard work being recognized.
Meetings are also a great venue for gaining feedback. If you’re trying out new protocols or need other input from your team, meetings can be a great way for employees to ensure their voices are heard. For those who are shy about speaking up, consider implementing an anonymous comments box, and address the feedback during meetings.
The best way to become a meeting master is to take control. Don’t think of your meetings as something to dread—think of them as an opportunity. If managed correctly, meetings don’t have to suck productivity out of the day—they can add to it, and enhance communication. Redefine your meetings and take control of your day!