No job description reads:
“35%+ of your time will be spent in meetings, most of which will start late, run long, and fail to accomplish their objectives. 25%+ of time will be spent preparing for those meetings.”
But too often, that is our fate. Employees across industries increasingly spend more and more of their time in meetings, with dubious returns at best. Time is a zero-sum game. Every hour employees spend participating in meetings is an hour that they could have been doing whatever it is that they were hired to do, whether it’s closing deals, writing software, making trades, or treating patients. Here are a few tips to reduce the amount of time your employees waste in meetings.
#1 – Eliminate long status update meetings by introducing short, frequent stand-ups.
While it might seem counterintuitive that adding a new meeting to your employees’ calendars will free up their time, that is exactly what a stand-up meeting accomplishes. Stand-ups are short, 15-minute, daily huddles. The purpose of a stand-up is twofold. First, it quickly gives participants a sense of what everyone is working on and how they are collectively progressing towards their objectives. Second, it provides an opportunity to flag risks as soon as they emerge and self-organize around them.
In addition to increasing your team’s agility, stand-ups eliminate the need for long, disruptive status update meetings that consume hours each week. Stand-ups offer a condensed update to everyone, and in doing so, connect the right people who need to do a deeper dive on a particular topic later. These brief touchpoints reduce the number of meetings that unnecessarily include whole teams or departments.
#2 – Before sending calendar invites, validate that the content merits holding a meeting in the first place.
Though meetings are uniquely suited for certain types of communication, too often they become the default method for all communication. As a result, employees spend hours in meetings consuming information that could have been communicated in minutes via email, Slack, or some other channel. Matt Sitter offers three valid reasons for holding a meeting – a transfer of timely information that has an immediate impact on the attendees, discussion of a topic that is a high priority for the organization, or a working session to coordinate complex work. If the meeting doesn’t meet one of these conditions, look for an alternative way to get the information to the right people.
#3 – Ditch PowerPoint.
In the shadows of our meetings lurks another wasteful beast. The amount of time spent preparing for meetings can be equal to or even greater than the amount of time spent in meetings. Stitching together slide decks with information from discrete teams and projects in some cases turns into a full-time job – and by the time the presentation is built, the information is already stale.
Leveraging the software used to manage work is an effective alternative to PowerPoint presentations which drastically reduces the preparation time required and increases the accuracy of the information presented in meetings. CrossLead users, for example, can build presentations directly in the software that they use to manage their daily tasks, team projects, and strategic plans. There is no need to waste time building a deck because the required information is already available in a presentation-friendly format.
#4 – Start on time, no matter who is running late.
Nothing screams “your time is not valued” louder than a room full of people waiting for a meeting to start because an executive is running late. Leaders have busy schedules and occasionally running late may be an unavoidable reality, but the show must go on – those arriving late can get caught up when they join. Starting late not only sends a negative message to meeting attendees, but it is also a massive waste of time for the other participants. Consider a half-hour meeting that starts six minutes late: 20% of the reserved time was squandered. Time should be treated like any other resource, and such waste is inexcusable. An organizational culture of meetings starting and ending on time demonstrates discipline and respect for employees’ time.
We spend way too much time in meetings to continue having dreadful ones. CrossLead won’t eliminate all of your meetings, but we can make them less frequent and less painful. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
David Silverman is the Founder and CEO of CrossLead, Inc. A co-author of the New York Times best-selling leadership and management book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement in a Complex World, David is a thought leader on culture change, high performing teams, and leadership. David served in the Navy SEALs for 13 years which provides him with a vast experience leading cross-functional teams in challenging environments and gives him the ability to offer a unique perspective to business leaders across diverse industries.