Why You Should Blow Off Your Next Meeting
I know, it sounds crazy, but I’m serious. If you’ve grown tired of attending too many unproductive meetings, then make a stand. Blow off the next meeting and see what (if anything) happens. Most likely, you’ll find that the world doesn’t end. In fact, you’ll probably be able to get more work done during this reclaimed time than any other hour this whole week. What you may not realize is just how much influence you have over the improving productivity levels of meetings until you actually being playing hooky.
How Can Blowing Off a Meeting Lead to Best Practices?
I’m sure you’ve been in meetings and noticed that at least one person hasn’t shown up. Typically, you later hear about some impending doom that would have befallen the entire company had said person pulled themselves away from the firefighting to attend the meeting. Really? Doom?
So, what happens in your organization when someone misses a meeting? Does the entire team of 11 people stop and wait for the missing person? Does anyone send a convoy to track down (and drag in) the missing person? The most common answer is… of course not, the meeting goes on as scheduled. So, what does this tell you about how people view the value, importance and productivity of the meetings that they miss? By first identifying such issues, then creating professional processes to address these issues you can form a series of best practices to ensure more meaningful, productive meetings for the long term.
Why People Blow Off Meetings
When you notice a pattern of absenteeism in a meeting you regularly attend, stop and ask yourself why this happens. In many cases, people have come to conclusion that the time and effort put forth in attending the meeting far outweighs the meeting outcomes. In other words, they value their time as an absentee more than they value their time as a participant. So, let’s break down how people come to the decision on being a no show.
- The unknown – With the lack of a stated agenda this leaves attendees guessing at what the meeting is all about. They can’t get prepared. They don’t know the expected outcomes. It is hard for them to assign a real value.
- Lack of focus –Without a specific focus you are left with a dreadful “status” meeting. These kinds of meetings only serve to keep the boss up-to-date or just check in with everybody. There is no real value in gathering a dozen people in a room so that they all can say that something is “in progress.”
- Time Consuming – How often does the “quick huddle” turn into a 90 minute discussion? Some people bail out on meetings for fear of getting trapped in a room far beyond the expected end time. As a meeting drags on their minds will begin to wander while emails, voice mails and sticky notes pile up on their desk.
- Déjà vu – Have you ever sat in a meeting and thought to yourself “didn’t we say the same thing last week in this same meeting?” You’re not the only one in the room thinking that. Getting trapped in a weekly rerun isn’t very productive. Meetings that rehash what has already been decided are big drag on personal and team productivity.
Best Practices for Productive Meetings
To ensure high attendance and top notch productivity, insist on the following minimum standards for all meetings that you attend or facilitate. If these standards aren’t met then don’t have the meeting.
- Meeting Outcome Statement – What is the point of the meeting? If the person holding the meeting can’t provide you with a one or two sentence description of what the meeting will accomplish, then how can the meeting end with productive results? (and no, “status update” or “progress report” are not acceptable missions for any meeting)
- Published Agenda – Prior to the meeting, each attendee should have the opportunity to know what will be discussed. This will aid attendees in preparing their mind and allow them the chance to collect and bring important, relevant information to the meeting and keep everyone focused. It will also help maintain high standards for efficiency.
- Time Limit – At the very least, each meeting should have hard start and stop times. An open ended time frame will potentially lead to straying from the meeting mission and waste a lot of valuable work time.
- Meeting Activity Log – (or Action Register ) – Be sure to have a “to do” list which assigns responsibility, due dates, and any additional notes regarding the completion of each activity as related to accomplishing the meeting mission. During the meeting someone has to be assigned to keep track of any action or decision to be completed after/outside the meeting. This keeps the meeting flowing and allows for decision making and activity deployment to occur in the appropriate time and manner.