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How to avoid meetings about meetings

Sep 4, 2019
Reading Time: 3minutes

Meetings are begun to share information or bring people into a common goal. This goes awry quickly, and if you see a pattern that hardly ever do meetings end with anything other than time wasted, you are not alone. Meetings quickly become about additional sessions and less about their intended purpose, and more about how to avoid meetings.

Often managers and leaders will host meetings thinking to bring everyone onto the same page.

Getting together for updates on each contributors efforts, policy changes, or having meetings purely for meeting’s sake are commonplace. Having a meeting every Monday afternoon because that is just what the team does isn’t generating any more energy into reaching goals; with team members eventually understanding that these sort of meetings are more for making an appearance.

Meetings have caused some of us to waste 23 hours a year – imagine the time you had to finish work if you could avoid meetings altogether?

Establish a Strict Agenda

Regularly scheduled meetings or meetings that are called to meet a specific purpose should all follow a given formula. First and foremost, establishing an agenda and knowing when to move on to the next topic. As a leader, when addressing the group, call for only new information. When this has been exhausted progress to the next issue.

One thought to keep in mind is that not everyone may be ready to move on, or may want to continue revisiting the same topics. Directing that these concerns will be addressed privately and making time for that to happen will significantly reduce any building negativity from wanting to move on to a different subject.

Determine What Questions Need Answering Before the Meeting

Questions alone isolate what is being delivered to what is relevant now, or is foreseen to become important. If non-relevant or information that is being recycled into these questions needs to be stopped as soon as it is identified, this doesn’t mean to confront or address this with excessive bluntness, but to ask in response to clarify how this information had become more relevant since the last meeting when it was brought to the groups attention then.

Identifying when information is appropriate, or a topic has been exhausted can be difficult. Mainly when meetings are open, and many speakers may be revolving through what they each believe is a relevant contribution.

A rotation of questions is the answer to guiding meetings and can be done as a leader or participant as long as at some point; participants are permitted to speak. “How will this help us reach this weeks goal?” “What are you expecting this information to build in our contribution?” “What can be done to change this?”

How to avoid meetings about meetings 1

Determine how the meeting will change the current directive

Change should be the directive of every meeting. Moving forward and progressing through regular daily work or a project is essential. Is daily work the only topic of meetings? That’s fine, make it a goal to make one task more efficient for one week, and then two.

Encourage Participants to Bring Only New Information to the Table

Pushing each meeting participant to bring something new to the team will not only accomplish the tasks and goals set. This environment will bring the team together in a more cohesive nature that everyone is now seen as a contributor.

It’s up to the leader to acknowledge these contributions and the efforts behind them. Recognising that holding each person or in larger meetings, each team is accountable for a particular group of tasks will offer encouragements to come to meetings prepared.

Including one event that is very important directly after, and acknowledging this in the start will hold everyone to a time frame. A simple statement such as, ‘we all know that when we’re wrapped up here we have a deadline on …’ places a sense of urgency on the team.

Set a Time Limit and Stick With It

Stressing urgency could be a tool as a driving force in quick communication and a method of removing excess discussion. Lightning rounds of ‘yes or no’ on goals or initiatives and one-sentence answers to leader directed questions create this fast-paced feeling.

This directing and more moderating efforts from a leader allows each person to give an opinion or feedback without eating more time or creating distractions. Distractions are often made on views of others feedback, that one subject is taken to another based on past actions and personal feelings.

Final thoughts

The combination of beginning meetings with an agenda, asking questions about the information, marking change for progress, acknowledging each person as a necessary contributor, accountability, and creating urgency will result in productive meetings.

Setting formats on agendas, questions and expectations produces an environment that has eliminated meetings that are about old meetings, or future meetings.

If you need to book meetings, avoid wasting additional time by using one of these 8 scheduling tools.

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