Let’s imagine a scene.
Team members filter into a conference room for five minutes. This is followed by another few minutes of chit chat. In the midst of casual conversation, someone brings up an urgent (to them) issue that consumes another ten minutes for whoever is paying attention. The group eventually focuses on the agenda, though a few people seem mentally checked out or are busy multitasking. Twenty minutes before the meeting is supposed to end, the team gets around to discussing the most pressing issues. Even though the meeting goes over by 15 minutes, no decision is made and no alignment is reached.
Sound familiar? The real question is: How much are undisciplined meetings costing your company?
It may not seem like it on the surface, but if your meetings look like this, you have an expensive problem on your hands. Simply put, your team has a finite capacity to get things done each week. Every minute spent in an undisciplined meeting is mindshare and productivity lost.
Let’s say there were six people in the meeting I described above. Do some quick math: multiply the amount of people in the meeting times the amount of time the meeting lasts. That one hour meeting that ran over took up 7.5 hours of your company’s time. Now ask yourself, how satisfied are you with the value you created with those 7.5 hours?
If your answer is “not enough”, then here are a six easy rules to create better meeting habits:
Rule #1 Every meeting has a purpose and a desired outcome.
Simply put, what are you there to do? Do you need to solve an issue? Brainstorm ideas? Make a decision? Ensure everyone is aligned around a plan? Consider adding the meeting purpose to the invite so your team can come prepared and you don’t waste valuable time.
Rule #2 Every person in the meeting understands their role in it.
Are they present to provide input? To understand the details of a decision that affects their work? Or to coordinate on a complex project? Encourage your team to ask for clarification when they’re unclear.
Rule #3 If a person doesn’t have a role, they don’t go to the meeting.
If someone’s purpose for being in the meeting is unclear, encourage them to decline the invite or leave the meeting; no apology or explanation needed. In fact, celebrate when people take that action. It’s the quickest way to create a healthy meeting culture.
Rule #4 Start and end on time.
One of the quickest ways teams lose focus (and energy) is when the scheduled meeting time is not respected. When you commit to work within your meeting time, it creates positive pressure to focus on the most important topics and it keeps the discussion more organized and concise. This makes forward momentum in the way of decisions and next steps more likely.
Rule #5 Always discuss what’s next.
A meeting is only as valuable as what comes out of it. Use the last five minutes of your time to recap any decisions that were made and what needs to happen next.
Rule #6 Give yourself a grade.
Have the team share accountability for improving meetings by having everyone rate the meeting at the end. How valuable was the discussion? How well did you move forward on key issues? Was it an effective use of the team’s time? By giving your meetings a grade, you can also track your progress over time.
There’s a final benefit of good meeting habits that may even outweigh the others. Meetings reflect your company’s culture in action. They are the proof of what your culture is; not what you wish it would be.