One less meeting gets you home in time for dinner
By Lonnie Pacelli
Excerpted from The Truth about Getting Your Point Acrossand Nothing But the Truth www.leadingonedge.com/truth
A client of mine absolutely loved to have meetings. Regardless of the topic, if there was some reason for at least two people to have any kind of interaction a meeting got called. Not only were there a lot of meetings but there would almost always be superfluous bodies taking up space in the meeting that had no real reason to be there other than to be informed. Now, if decisions got made and things got done I would have had more tolerance for the meeting mania. But more often than not little got done at these meetings other than to schedule more meetings. It was madness, I say!
As a senior manager, I could have spent every working hour of every day in meetings. Me needing to meet with other managers or my staff. Vendors wanting to meet with me. Meeting with customers. Meeting with other organizations. Meetings to decide what meetings to have or not have. It was meeting after meeting after meeting. I had to actively control my calendar to say no to meetings that didnt make sense, push back on meetings where I didnt need to be there or where we could get work done through other means.
As much as I may grouse about meetings, some of them were necessary, beneficial and effective. Then again, there were those that were a total waste of time and could have been accomplished by some other means. The million dollar question then becomes, How do you keep the beneficial meetings and eliminate the wastes of time? In my experience, there are several situations where meetings are generally more appropriate than doing through other means, as follows:
- Getting buy-in or consensus on a strategy, direction, or decision Meet if youve got something that requires people being 100% bought in to the solution. For people to be truly bought in, they need to have an opportunity to influence direction, express concerns, or provide alternatives.
- Team building If you want your team to work better together then they need meeting time to get to know each other, to understand relative strengths and weaknesses, and to want to help each other.
- Celebrating a success or milestone Having an e-party just doesnt work. Let your folks get together for a milkshake and celebrate a successful completion of a project, meeting a critical milestone, or celebrating a holiday.
- Delivering bad news where people will likely have questions No one likes to find out bad news by reading a memo. If youve got bad news that will affect people directly, get them in a room if logistically possible and deliver the message. It gives people an opportunity to interact as well as it being a more humane and sensitive way of delivering bad news.
What are some effective alternatives to people getting in a room together to meet? Try these on for size:
- E-mail Great for dissemination of information and for some decision making that may not be contentious or controversial. Just watch for when a topic does turn contentious or controversial; youre best to take the discussion offline and get a meeting together for the relevant parties to discuss.
- Web sites Also great for dissemination of information or for getting input
- Audio/video conferencing Effective when logistics prevent people from physically meeting or when a person only wants to listen in on a meeting
- One-on-one discussions Effective when a decision or direction can be made by just a couple of people and then others can be informed through e-mail or web sites
We need to interact, we need to exchange information, and we need to work together to get things done. Avoid falling into meeting trap and consciously ask yourself if there are other ways to communicate and get your point across.