Meetings A Time Management Mystery
How do we improve time management? What is time management anyway?
Haven’t we all endured the torture of sitting through the meetings that just seem to go on forever? No matter how many times you look at your watch or draw doodles on your writing pad, the time seems to stretch into long unsustainable hours. It always made me wonder if meetings are always supposed to be this boring. Aren’t long boring irrelevant meetings a waste of time? So fixing the problem we have with meetings would improve time management and would be an important element of time management strategies, right?.
The book, “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni had a few important points I would like to highlight which are relevant to your time management efforts.
Patrick Lencioni is a business-consulting guru who has written a lot of other books about leadership, teamwork and organizational health. He understands what makes a business tick. He highlights that bad meetings, which tend to disrupt the whole organizational atmosphere are a reflection of bad leaders. Meetings themselves are not bad. They are actually necessary. The book teaches you the art of carrying out interesting and engaging meetings that would grab onto the interests of everyone who is there sitting through them.
This further re-enforces my point of view that it isn’t the time we need t be focused on, but how we show up for the time we have. Ultimately it is a leadership responsibility but attendees have to take their responsibility in making the meetings effective too!
Improve Time Management : The art of meetings
The book talks about understanding why meetings are bad. No drama, no context and no purpose.
Hollywood is a good place to understand that you have 10 minutes in the first part of the movie to capture people’s attention and interest. The same is true for your meetings. You need to capture the attention of your team in the first 10 minutes or they are texting each other of boredom or doodling in their paper. Bring up a current conflict, challenge or situation that would have the attention and interest of everyone in the room. Instead of turning the meeting into a lecture about the work agendas, turn the subject into a conflict, controversy or major point of interest open a loop and keep people on the edge before you close the loop. I have seen companies do different things to start with something compelling for people to engage in. For example some teams ask people to break the ice and tell the room something no one knows about them, others address a team conflict, customer problem and what would you do if you were the boss.
“Death By Meeting” also emphasizes on creating a proper context for the meeting and working on meeting management. Are you brainstorming, discussing a strategy, reviewing project status, daily check-in creating a new process, and evaluating a tool. The context matters for who is present and what the objectives of the meeting are going to be. Often meetings try to accomplish too much and end up wasting people’s time. When the people attending the meeting understand the context they can better understand what is expected of them and their purpose in the meetings. I have often heard people invited to meetings and they had no idea why they were asked to attend as the meeting agenda lacked context.
Clarifying context may increase the number of meetings but make them shorter, with few people and more efficient. It is the leaders role to table discussions that are not relevant, trivial matters and focus on the relevant issues.
Context leads to purpose. When you are clear on the context of the meeting you can then provide a clear purpose and or objective of the meeting.
When a meeting misses these three elements you lose people’s attention. Studies show than more than 50% of people at meeting multitask, diverting their attention away from the meeting. I texted someone once to about getting together and she texted back that she would call me later she was in a meeting. Why did she text me if she was in a meeting. That is another blog altogether but the fact is my friend and many others are not fully vested in the meeting with their attention.
We do not have to accept bad meetings as a cost of doing business. Leadership is recognizing what isn’t working and changing it. Leadership is a set of skills, characteristics and abilities, many of which can be learned. How to run effective meetings, how to create authority and presence and how to engage your team can all be taught in leadership classes and even online leadership training. Yet in my research when I spoke at the Society of HR Managers (SHRM) Annual Conference June 2016 less than 1 % of companies do any leadership courses on how to run effective meetings. Shocking.
If meetings are wasting our time we owe it to our time management efforts to provide employee training on how to run well-organized and efficient meetings. After all what is time management? Time management is accomplishing more in less time. Changing the way we manage our meetings will definitely make organizations more efficient and effective. So isn’t it time to re-evaluate your meetings?