The Idea: According to a new Clarizen/Harris Interactive Survey, 40 percent of employees believe status update meetings are a waste of time and 67 percent state they are spending up to four hours per week getting ready for their next status update meeting. Most meetings cannibalize the energy, spirit and productivity of people in attendance. And most of us are guilty of this crime. How do you transform meetings and what are the rules for creating meeting that inspire and deliver real impact?
A few years back I used to be a part of a team that suffered from meeting mania.
The meetings always went over the agreed upon time. No matter if we agreed on the agenda, low priority topics would be added during the meeting. The team suffered from too much filibustering and distracting “nice to know” vs. “need to know” discussions. And we debated low priority topics that only pertained to a few of the members in the room. Action steps were agreed to and the leader never followed up after the meeting. It was painful.
Meetings that go on too long are distracting. They damage the culture, morale and productivity. Recent research by University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs found that we all have a limited pool of “executive” resources. And when we use it up we start making poor decisions. The research shows that too many dysfunctional meetings can deplete us of our ability to lead and our decision-making effectiveness.
Most meetings are filled with rituals, tribal politics and wasted energy. And we are addicted to the ritual, whether we like it or not. There are three pillars of all effective meetings.
- Vision. The meeting should always produce a detailed pre-agreed to agenda with no more than three topics, crisp meetings goals and a clear expected outcome. And everyone must depart with a feeling that they contributed to the creation of something bigger than themselves.
- Clarity. Reduce the length of meetings to no more than thirty to forty-five minutes. If you can, try ten or fifteen-minute meetings as a challenge. Teams meet too often, for too long and with too many of the wrong people in the room. Participants must walk away with clarity of what matters and who owns next steps.
- Energy. Meetings are not meant for data dumps, they are meant to create momentum and results. Meetings are theatre and they demonstrate what and who you value. Everyone must walk away with renewed purpose and energy. If not, you failed.
“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.” ― Dave Barry