Meetings Suck: How To Create a “Meeting-less” Culture to Increase Productivity
The team meeting is a staple in corporate culture and businesses everywhere.
Some like them, others hate them, but I think we all can agree that most of them are not 100% productive 100% of the time.
There’s a common misconception that regular meetings are just part of business. In theory, they are a way to collaborate, but in practice, they end up being more of a distraction than a positive experience.
The act of meeting isn’t so much the problem. It’s the unclear objectives, irrelevant attendees, and lack of focus that leads to wasted time and energy.
Collaboration will always be crucial for business, but it’s time to leave unnecessary meetings behind. By rethinking how, when, and why your team collaborates, you can boost productivity and company morale. Let’s take a closer look at why most traditional meetings fail, the criteria you should base a meeting’s necessity on, and the tools you can use to retain collaboration without meetings.
Most Meetings are Distracting Instead of a Productive Use of Time
If we’re being honest, a lot of managers or owners hold regular meetings because they think they’re supposed to. It’s such an ingrained activity in business that these managers feel like they aren’t doing their job if meetings aren’t a normal part of the work week. But holding meetings just for the sake of it benefits no one (besides the people that get a kick out of hearing themselves talk).
Personally, I don’t like meetings. I don’t enjoy leading them, and I don’t enjoy being part of them. I love looking at my calendar and seeing an empty schedule because I know I can get so much strategic and tactical work done for my company.
When you spend 30 minutes to an hour in a meeting with your team, that’s time and energy that could have been spent doing focused work. For those in the meeting that don’t really need to be there, this chunk of time is a complete distraction. It’s hard to get into a “flow” of productive work when meetings continually interrupt your day.
I’m not the only one who feels like most meetings are unproductive. According to the Doodle State of Meetings Report 2019:
“Poorly organised meetings cost companies a huge amount in time and money every year. Over a quarter of participants (26%) stated that poorly organised meetings impacted their client relationships, while others feel they create confusion in the workplace (43%), and impact their ability to actually do their work (44%).”
“Professionals in the UK, Germany and USA spend two hours every week in pointless meetings, adding up to 13 days over the course of a year. The average professional has three meetings each week, with an average duration of one hour per meeting. Proportionally – professionals feel that two thirds of the meetings they attend are unnecessary.”
It doesn’t surprise me that professionals everywhere feel the pain of unnecessary meetings. Now, I want to clarify that not all meetings are bad or pointless, but there needs to be a very specific time, place, and reason you hold meetings.
Meetings Need to Have a Defined Purpose and Only Include Relevant Parties
Collaboration and teamwork are obviously crucial for the success of any company. But how you go about that collaboration makes the difference between wasting time and producing fruitful outcomes.
“Ad hoc” meetings are acceptable as long as they have a defined purpose. And the purpose for any meeting you hold should be clarity. In the book “Read This Before Our Next Meeting,” Al Pittampalli describes why meetings should only be held to resolve confusion, conflict, or to brainstorm solutions to a problem.
Your meetings should always provide clarity on the path forward for whatever agenda you’re working on. Therefore, people should leave meetings energized. If they’re leaving bored and depleted, something is wrong. As I learned in a recent Strategic Coach session, “the outcome of clarity is always increased confidence.”
In addition to having a defined purpose for your meetings, you should only include the parties that are relevant to the topic at hand. There’s no reason to invite someone that’s not truly a stakeholder or has something valuable to contribute to the conversation. If there’s a small issue that needs to be discussed with a team member, just pick up the phone, figure it out, and move on.
Meetings should never be informational, or just “status updates.” This can be communicated in an email. Or for greater impact, record a video of yourself talking and send that to the team. This allows your team to get informed on their own time without disrupting their workflow.
Create a “Meeting-Less” Culture with Collaborative Technology and Clear Processes
One of the keys to eliminating unnecessary meetings is to build clear processes within your business and to make sure your team members fully understand their individual responsibilities.
If these things have been communicated, your team should be able to run like a well oiled machine without the need for intervention. When there’s no confusion about the end goal and how to get there, there’s no reason for continual meetings to get on the same page.
When it comes to building a meeting-less culture, technology is your friend. At Cirrus Payroll, we use cloud-based project management and communication tools that keep our team in sync 24/7. At any given time, I can look at a project or a client and know exactly where things stand. There’s no need for daily/weekly “check-ins” when I can get a bird’s-eye view and dive into the details in a couple minutes on my phone or laptop.
It also helps to communicate information through emails as much as possible. Only pick up the phone to use the power of collaboration when you’re stuck on a problem and need help getting past it.
Kill Meetings and Collaborate In a More Effective Way
Productivity and employee satisfaction are top priorities for most businesses. But frequent, unfocused meetings hinder your business’s ability to deliver on those priorities. Luckily, there’s a way for you to eliminate unnecessary meetings and collaborate in a fruitful way.
By having a defined purpose for your meetings and only including relevant team members, your team can move forward with clarity without wasting anyone’s time. Furthermore, by using collaborative tech tools, your team can stay in sync on projects without the need to physically meet.
Moving to a meeting-less culture starts with you and your commitment to establishing clear processes within your business and making sure your team understands their roles.
With these tips and strategies in mind, I hope you never have to sit through or hold another ineffective meeting again.