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Why Most Meetings Fail Before They Even Begin

Productive People have productive meetings. If you want to be productive, make sure you prepare well for meetings. Having meetings in any workplace is a standard event. However, do we ask ourselves why?

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Meetings

Source: Forbes.com/ Soulaima Gourani

They are sometimes deemed a “necessary evil” but are meetings (In person or Remote) always effective

I remember when I was working for some of the largest enterprises in the world. We would spend 70-75% of our workday in meetings, and it was not unusual. I remember sitting in a sales meeting once, and the numbers weren’t matching the budget; everyone was furious. I remember my saying, “well if we had fewer meetings, we would have a chance to sell more because we would have time to be with the clients instead of being here.”

I have always had an aversion against meetings, or let me correct myself, a hatred towards ineffective meetings. Not enough companies teach their employees how to run an efficient meeting that is worth people’s time. And the price we pay for unproductive meetings is a burned-out workforce, lacking productivity, innovation, and collaboration. For many companies, meetings are so dysfunctional that they represent the single biggest time-waster in the workplace.

I make it my mission to avoid meetings unless there is a clear plan, a specific description telling me why I am expected in the meeting, and the purpose of the meeting. I also try to keep all my discussions as short as 15 minutes.
There is an urgent need to protect employees’ most precious resources: time and cognitive overload.

Having meetings in any workplace is a standard event. However, do we ask ourselves why? Meetings are hugely expensive, and most people, like myself, hate meetings. Could there be better and, most importantly, more efficient ways to collaborate?

Meetings take up a lot of time that could have been better spent doing the actual work. “I am in (virtual) meetings all day most of the week, so I often have to do my homework early in the morning or late after work and on weekends. Does that sound familiar?

70% of all meetings are a waste of time, 70%! That is a lot of unproductive time that could have been better spent doing the actual work. The University of North Carolina surveyed 182 senior managers in various industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. Yet, we still have meetings because meetings are where we are all get together and sit down to get on the same page. However, only one person often ends up dominating the conversation. There are too many people in the meeting, leaving more confused than before taking the meeting without much clarity. Meetings are far from the best way to get your team on the same page and collaborate. More often than not, they are “bad company habits,” and for some, a way of “looking busy.”

A fully packed calendar was once a status symbol; today, it is a sign of poor (self) leadership and poor judgment. Are all of those meetings going to be necessary and efficient in your company’s growth? Or could they all be collected into one meeting, leaving time for your team to do the work and avoid feeling stressed?

More now than ever, we need to be mindful of our and our teams’ mental health and understand how overworking and too many meetings negatively affect our well-being. How often do you work without distraction? How much time do you have in a day or during the week for profound cognitive thinking, problem-solving, creative thinking, and genuine innovation? Five hours or less?

What is the solution?

The fact is that lack of time to perform actual work causes burnout and stress, costing companies billions of dollars a year. If your employees’ mental balance takes a toll, it can not be solved with an extended weekend trip to Lake Tahoe, a fruit basket or a bucket of flowers. It can take years to get an employee back on track and back in top mental shape.

There are side effects to too many meetings, and one of them is stress. Every 6th death in this country is related to stress. Another thing is that many meetings occur while sitting, and we know from several studies that prolonged sedentary behaviours can weaken the body’s muscles, bones and circulation, making it challenging to maintain a healthy metabolism. What we have established so far is that meetings are incredibly unhealthy for your health and can be an inefficient way of working. So why do we still have them?

Many companies are currently trying out various techniques and policies to avoid overwhelming workload on their employees, especially since many people are working from home and are in a constant work mode. Some of these policies are pretty simple, while others are more complicated or even dramatic. Accenture’s CEO, for example, has chosen to take the lead by no longer eating in front of screens and encouraging others to do the same. Other companies are introducing meeting-free Fridays. The company Slack has introduced that all meetings in the future must be a maximum of 25 min and not 30 min, so people have time to go to the toilet, get a glass of water, etc.

At our company, we prefer “standing meetings,” even if it’s virtual meetings. That way, they often last no longer than 10-15 minutes. We measure daily how much time we have for deep thinking and how much we “meet.”

It’s important not to let time-wasting meetings take over the fact that you still have a job to do and need to do it well. Think of it this way: would you like to hire yourself, or would you fire yourself if given the opportunity? Be sure that you can always draw two lines under your contribution to the organization you are in. Do not be the employee who spends all day in meeting after meeting and spends oceans of time planning but never realizes that money must be made and that customers, users and citizens should come before everything else. There’s no point in planning if you’ll never actually do the job you’ve planned, something we call: a lot of talks and no action.

Take care of your actual work, prioritize your time, find new effective ways to solve your tasks and say no thank you to meetings. Especially meetings where you do not immediately see a relevant agenda or can not see yourself playing an important role. Many can advantageously cut their meetings by 30%; the question is, can you?

Time is a so-called “zero-sum game,” which means that every minute you spend never comes back.

Productive People have productive meetings.

If you want to be productive, make sure you prepare well for meetings.

People dislike meetings that waste their time, so don’t be that person. I always wanted to be a time-saver, not a time stealer; hence I prep and plan and moderate my meetings very carefully.

I research the attendees, connect with them before the meeting (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and I determine clear objectives so everyone knows why they are invited and what the agenda is. Use these essential tips to become the person people love being in meetings with.

How effective are meetings in your company?

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