Time is a precious commodity and one that few of us can ever say we have enough of. For senior managers and executives the lack of time becomes increasingly problematic, with more time being spent working in the business rather than on it. So why is it that we still manage to fill our working days with a series of never-ending meetings that we could probably do without?
According to research, unnecessary and ill-timed meetings cost UK organisations £26 billion every year. But that’s only scratching the surface if new research published this week is anything to go by.
The research, conducted by eShare, found that the time spent preparing for meetings takes almost as long as the time taken in attending a meeting itself, which averages at 1 hour 9 minutes.
With the average worker typically attending 3.7 meetings per week, that means that 25% of their entire working week is spent either preparing or attending meetings – the equivalent of 10 years of someone’s working life.
So how can you make your meetings more efficient and a better use of your and your team’s time?
- Ask yourself, Is this meeting really necessary? Meetings needs to be valuable and worthwhile and the last thing you or anyone wants is to walk out and say ‘Well, that’s an hour of my life I will never get back.’ Decide if the information you wish to communicate could be better delivered via email or telephone. If you are a senior manager you don’t necessarily need to address everyone in every team – that’s why you have managers, so communicate with them and get them to inform their teams. That’s what delegation is all about.
- Plan and prepare: Many of us have attended meetings when it is obvious that the person running it did their planning en route. If the meeting is pre-scheduled and not on the hoof, send all participants the agenda for the meeting as well as all relevant information of what will be discussed in advance. This not only manages the expectations of those attending, it also gives them an opportunity to plan ahead and anticipate any questions that may arise. Doing this also makes the meeting more productive and engaging which by default could reduce the time spent discussing the issues at hand. After all, if you are meeting to discuss a report, for instance, no useful contributions can be made if the report is received cold for the first time at the meeting. Think: Agenda, Purpose, and Outcomes.
- Facilitate: Viewers of Question Time or The Big Questions every Sunday morning will see how well Messrs Dimbleby and Campbell keep the conversations moving. They have prepared, they are armed with a series of questions that are designed to open up the debate, drive greater engagement and encourage attendees to contribute, question and challenge what is being discussed. In doing so, meetings become an environment whereby each person’s voice can be heard and a consensus of opinion is reached with an agreement on all points.
- Be clear in your communications: Few people want to be taken away from their day-to-day work to attend a meeting, so keep it as short and simple as possible. Make sure that everyone knows what the meeting is about and the expectations that you have of everyone attending but more important, know your subject! There are few things more frustrating than a chairperson reading from their notes all the time – it is not engaging and doesn’t project a positive sense of someone who knows what they are talking about.
- Finally, wrap up well: The most successful business relationships are those that are mutually beneficial, the same is true when it comes to meetings. Acknowledge everyone’s contribution, summarise what has been agreed and the action points moving forward and highlight those areas that may need further discussion at a later date.
Back-to-back meetings have increasingly become the norm for many senior managers and executives. But in today’s ever-increasingly competitive landscape few can afford to dedicate their time to activities that often prove to be unnecessary and counter-productive. Whilst the above is by no means an exhaustive list of tips, they will help you to get the most out of those meetings that you simply cannot avoid.
Do you have an idea of how to improve your time spent in meetings? Feel free to share your thoughts with us.