One Less Meeting Gets You Home In Time For Dinner

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.  I had to actively control my calendar to say no to meetings that didn’t make sense, push back on meetings where I didn’t 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 – Have the meeting if you’ve got something that requires people being 100% bought into the solution. For the leader to convince, they need to have an opportunity to influence direction, express concern, or provide alternatives.
  • Team Building – If you want your team to work better together, try scheduling a meeting to help them get to know each other better, and to understand relative strengths and weaknesses. It’ll help promote the culture of teamwork and helping each other.
  • Celebrating a success or milestone – Having an “e-party” just doesn’t work. Encourage the team members to get together and celebrate successful completion of a project, meeting a critical milestone, or as simple as celebrating a holiday or a birthday.
  • Delivering bad news where people will likely have questions or concerns – Many dislike finding out bad news by reading a memo. If there is bad news to be announced that will affect people directly, try getting the team in a room if logistically possible and deliver the message. It gives people an opportunity to interact as well as it is a more sensitive way of delivering the bad news. Besides, you’ll clear off many misunderstanding when doing it face-to-face.

What Can I Do If I Can’t Host A Meeting Directly?

Try these on for size.

  • E-mail – Great for dissemination of information and for some decisions making that may not be contentious or controversial. Be aware on the topic when there is a possibility to turn contentious or controversial. It’s best to take the discussion offline if it happens.
  • 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.

Avoid falling into meeting traps. Practice consciously asking yourself if there are other effective ways to communicate and get your point across.

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Lonnie Pacelli

Lonnie Pacelli has 35 years' experience including 11 at Accenture, 9 at Microsoft, and 15 as an independent strategy consultant and author. Independent director at Northwest Center, a $60m disability inclusion non-profit that operates 7 businesses that fund services provided to people with disabilities. Held key positions at Microsoft including managing $6b in spend as director of corporate procurement and leading the worldwide corporate planning and budgeting group. Lonnie Pacelli is passionate about helping leaders help themselves. See more at LonniePacelli.com.

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