Meetings bloody meetings! The ‘more mature’ readers of this blog will no doubt remember the infamous John Cleese Video Arts training video by this name! How times have changed since, as were are now in the 21st century digital age but how have meetings changed? Let’s take a closer look.
What typical research shows
A recent article on HR Grapevine highlighted that the average British employee will sit through 6,240 meetings in their career. The huge number consists of catch-ups, client meetings and appraisals. Of the 2,000 workers studied six in ten described meetings as “pointless”.
“There is nothing worse than being sat in a meeting that doesn’t really concern you,’ said Charlotte Gaskin, Marketing Manager at Sennheiser Communications, who conducted the study, “So it’s not surprising then that so many people zone out, nod off or doodle. Of the respondents we polled, many said that often a quick and concise conference call was more effective than a lengthy meeting which often resulted in expensive travel expenses,” Gaskin continued.
There must be a better way!
In my ‘previous life’, as a senior manager in a large corporate, I often got the feeling that that departments and functions were in competition to see who could hold the most meetings. When it came to major projects things got even worse, especially when there was a matrix management structure!
In my ‘present life’ as Managing Director of my own Career & People Development Consultancy, I have come across senior executives and CEO’s who have spent almost every hour of every working week in wall to wall meetings. They complained of how stressed out they were and wondered why nothing seemed to get done or it took eternity!
Whatever level you are working at, you need some thinking time in order to be able to plan, prioritise, reflect, make the right decisions, be sharp, focused and possibly creative, rather than thinking about being on time for your next meeting!
The 7 P’s Principle
In my latter employed days, I made it a rule of thumb that I would only run or attend meetings based on what I now call the 7 P’s principle i.e.
- There was an agreed Purpose – no purpose, no meeting!
- There was an outlinePlan / timescale / agenda – no plan, no meeting!
- Only the necessaryPeople would attend who could input / add value – no hangers on or wasted productivity
- What Preparation, if any, was required – to avoid wasted time in the meeting
- People selected to attend actively Participated
- From the agreed outcomes it was clear who had Points to action, why and by when – no opportunity for people to abdicate responsibility!
- Agreed deadlines were achieved Promptly– no opportunity for slippage through a good follow up process
Turning meetings bloody meetings into CLEAR Meetings = effective and productive meetings!
Linked to my 7 P’s principles, here is a really simplistic formula to run effective meetings:
Clarity – Before any meeting consider:
- Why do we need to meet?
- How will this help to achieve our business objectives?
- What do we need to achieve?
- Who needs to attend and why?
- What briefing notes / papers need to be sent out in advance?
- What preparation is required by attendees?
Leadership – At the start of the meeting the Chair or facilitator:
- Agree any ground rules e.g. desired outcomes, housekeeping, breaks, finish time, break out sessions
- Give a quick overview of the agreed agenda
- Allocate specific roles e.g. time keeper, note taker
- What is required from attendees
Engage – During the meeting the Chair/ facilitator needs to ensure:
- There is relevant dialogue
- Active listening and participation of all attendees
- The meeting is focused and on track to achieve the objectives
Actions – During the meeting:
- Agree action points, who is responsible and by when
- Action points are written up clearly for all to see e.g. flip chart, white board or Post It notes to avoid any misinterpretation
- At the end of the meeting, action list photographed or transposed onto tablets, lap tops etc for circulation
Review – At the end of the meeting:
- Have we achieved our desired outcomes?
- What was successful and what was unhelpful?
- How we can improve next time?
- All agreed action points to ensure a common understanding
- Deadlines for circulation of any notes
- Deadlines for action points to be completed
- What happens next e.g. follow up
So, instead of meetings bloody meetings, follow the 7 P’s and the CLEAR meetings approach and you might have less meetings, more productive meetings and start to see meetings in a different light and maybe even look forward to them!