We all spend a significant proportion of our time in meetings, and probably often wonder if they actually deliver anything, or if they do, if it’s really worth the amount of time invested? Indeed, meetings regularly feature high up the list in terms of productivity killers in business surveys, so the question is – should we be doing them at all?

Short, focused, outcome driven

If you can get your meetings to deliver on the above 3 criteria then the answer is ‘yes’, but before you get to the ‘how’ you need to assess the ‘what’ and whether a meeting is the vehicle that is really going to deliver the progress you want? Adding up the cumulative number of working hours around the table for all the meeting attendees can be a good way to focus the mind. While a 2 hour meeting for you might be an inconvenience and delay you from getting on with your ‘proper work’, for the business if you have 4 people in that meeting it’s a day’s productivity wasted if it doesn’t achieve real outcomes.

What are meetings good for?

The problem isn’t with meetings per se, but with ‘bad meetings’. Not only are they not productive themselves, but they can have an impact on people’s productivity for the rest of the day, not just due to time wasted, but also through the ensuing fatigued, frustrated mindset they engender.

General updates and information sharing can, and arguably should, be done by other means. Meetings are most value when there is genuinely a need for collaboration, innovation and problem solving from across teams or management. Bringing together different skills, expertise and ideas can lead to great outputs, but you still need structure and focus.

What good meetings look like?

There are many novel theories about how to breathe new life into meetings, such as doing them standing up or out in the open air – not always the best idea given the vagaries of the British weather. Instead we’d suggest that productive meetings happen when people know the agenda and importantly the objectives of the meeting in advance. This allows people to do their thinking ahead of time and have a useful, well considered contribution prepared, and it also reduces the risk of a ‘talking shop’. Being disciplined about the schedule, starting and ending on time, being clear at the outset what needs to be achieved and agreeing a collective responsibility for ensuring you don’t stray into unrelated and distracting territory, are also important ingredients. As is being prepared to listen as much as you talk, and importantly making sure required actions are noted and people know they will be followed up. 

Communicating the decisions made or actions required to others not at the meeting is also important and can often be overlooked. So ensuring you share information with the right people afterwards will make meetings more meaningful and reduce them being seen as irrelevant by others.

Getting your meetings to matter is only one of the key skills of effective business leaders. Our team at BHP Consulting can help with many other aspects of management and achieving the greatest results from your team – and they have all successfully run businesses themselves. Our practical approach to supporting our clients enables us to share our real world experience to positively impact on the performance of your business. To arrange a call or an exploratory face-to-face meeting, please click here.