More work than ever before is done completely through teams. These can be globally dispersed and remote teams or matrixed across departments and functions. With the amount of time spent in meetings, they need to be worthwhile! Allow me to explore why and then provide practical steps to transform meetings in your workplace.
How many of these dynamics have you experienced in team meetings, just in the past week?
- You came to “represent” but had no real idea of what the meeting was about (lost)
- You had a marginal connection to the topics discussed (boring)
- You were without authority needed to impact items being discussed (impotent)
- Your input was disregarded or shot down by others (discounted)
- Your input was lost among other conversations happening simultaneously, either around the table or in private online chats (unnecessary)
- You didn’t speak up, and no one noticed or invited your input before it ended (invisible)
- You accomplished more in that meeting by covertly multitasking (productive!)
At the speed of business today, we don’t have the time or energy to waste repeating these scenarios. An Otter.ai study found that, on average, companies waste around $25,000 per employee each year on workers halfheartedly sitting in on meetings they felt were unnecessary. Notice it is not that the person didn’t need to be in the meeting, nor that the person didn’t have anything of value to contribute. Their perception (and perception is reality) was simply that most objectives could be achieved more effectively through other means. You know many of these: email, group chats, team channels in communication platforms, message boards, quick hallway “gab-and-gos” and so on.
The extremely practical reason to fix team meetings is the genuine hit to “the bottom line.” Overall, the Otter.ai study found that firms with 100 workers would save almost $2.5 million per year if unnecessary meetings were slashed, while companies with 5,000 employees would save more than $100 million annually.
How To Make Meetings Worthwhile
Those numbers are staggering! It behooves us all to sort this out, so here is a starter list.
Meet With a Purpose
Clearly decide and communicate why there needs to be a meeting. Often, a meeting is needed so a group can meet; Discussion is critical to producing a result, making written communication less expedient. It follows that a clear “why” of a meeting reveals the important “what” those in attendance will accomplish toward forward progress.
Invite The Right People
A great guide for who should be in the meeting is a RACI chart:
- Who is responsible for actions on the topic, initiative or project? This should be one person—two if you must, but no more—and they should be “at the table”
- Who is accountable for actions and deliverables? This may include many and they should gather, with the responsible (who also may be accountable for certain things themselves) to provide updates and seek alignment
- Who is to be consulted regarding the actions and decisions of the team? This could include several necessary SMEs or managers of team members. They might attend some critical decision-focused meetings, but will normally review meeting minutes, then offer written or verbal insights to the team through a messenger from the responsible or accountable groups
- Who needs to be informed regarding the work of the team? These people do not need to attend meetings but must be kept “in the loop” by someone who does. Their input, if needed, is normally shared with the Team Leader between meetings
Set an Agenda and Send It In Advance
Send the agenda at least 3-24 hours in advance, so people have enough time to prepare. Allot a time limit to each item so later items aren’t overlooked or postponed. Identify who will report on and contribute to each item. Some larger-scale meetings, such as board meetings and annual strategy planning, will require the agenda to be sent days or weeks ahead of time. Setting expectations for success empowers ownership and motivation to come prepared.
Follow With Minutes and a List of Actionable Items
This responsibility can be rotated through the team members or by a well-organized member who enjoys this task. They confirm who will report, on what, how (by email, internal channel, etc.) and by when.
Keep The Meeting Brief
Meetings don’t always need to be the same length—just the time necessary to accomplish the objectives of the agenda. By cutting out topics, updates and questions that are not relevant to people “in the room,” the group can resolve or move forward on specific items for which they have responsibility, expertise and passion.
Start Meetings With Reports On Actionable Items
If it was important enough to assign at the end of the previous meeting, progress likely cannot be made without an update. If the action was unable to be completed, realign and reassign next steps after explanations have been given.
Share The Top Three Action Items For Each Week
This is particularly helpful when many team members are working on one or very similar items. The team or project leader can keep people focused, aligned and productive between meetings with one top-of-mind list for all.
Key to sustaining engagement, passion and progress is a personal sense of fulfillment and receiving appreciation for work done well, especially if herculean effort or high levels of inconvenience and sacrifice were required.
Empower Your Team Members To Run The Meetings
This develops leadership in your team members and cultivates ownership and accountability that the meeting is important, fruitful and enjoyable.
Interested In Learning More?
Learn how Team Meetings helps leaders create inspiring, impactful and efficient team meetings that drive results and foster collaboration!