Most employees bemoan the hours spent in meetings. In a recent online survey by Microsoft, employees stated they waste nearly two days of every work week. 42% indicated procrastination was the leading cause of wasted time; followed by 34% who felt ineffective meetings were the culprit. Senior managers spend between 11 and 23 hours per week in meetings, while all other employees spend an average of 5.5 hours per week according to a Wall Street Journal survey.
A simple way to measure the cost of meetings is to calculate the hourly rates of those in attendance, multiplied by the hours spent in weekly meetings. One should not stop at this simple calculation, especially when the meeting is ineffective.
Face-to-face meetings help organizations make decisions, establish direction and strategy. Yet, few managers receive adult learning techniques and group dynamics training to improve this process.
One aspect of adult learning is to deliver information in a manner that is respectful of the recipient’s time. The meeting leader should ask, what is the most efficient way to share the information? Many times an email will work. The purpose of the correspondence must be considered. If the information is sensitive or the group needs to exchange information and/or come to a decision, a face- to-face meeting may be in order. Meetings also provide an opportunity to improve working relationships.
Effective meetings require structure, a defined purpose, start and end times and ground rules. Select participants carefully. Design an agenda to accomplish the meeting’s purpose and select participants based on their knowledge and ability to contribute to the goal.
Beginning and concluding on time conveys respect of participants’ time. Consider limiting the time of each topic on the agenda. Each participant may be assigned an agenda item. This focuses their responsibility and establishes the reason for their inclusion. Be diplomatic. Establish ground rules at the onset. This may eliminate the need to correct participants during the meeting for inappropriate use of electronic devices or interruptions.
Provide meeting minutes to all participants, ideally within 24 hours. All action items should include who is responsible and a deadline.
Meeting leaders should know how to manage conflict. Conflict is an essential stage of team development. Having participants clarify their positions brings about a deeper understanding of the issue. Managing this level of communication leads to synergy.