Let’s meet to discuss it”. How often does a grand initiative begin this way? And end? The average man spends 4.34 hours each week in meetings, the average woman 2.28. Seventy-five per cent say that these meetings were ineffective (NY Times research).
The leader’s role is to keep the meeting on track. Anything that does not contribute to refining the decision or executing the decision should be taken offline. Writing side issues up on a big flip chart in the room can be a great way of showing that these side issues have not been ignored, but this is not the time and place to debate them.
If the leader does not know what decision to take, a group meeting will not help. One-to-one sessions with affected people, peers, consultants can help the leader shape the criteria for the decision. Often the most powerful tool is a blank sheet of paper and some time alone reflecting and thinking. No meeting should be called without the basic criteria for taking the decision already in place.
Before the meeting – follow these steps
As an executive or a manager, if you are calling a meeting, here are five rules to ensure that your meeting does not end up wasting time, resources and money.
Problem. What exactly is the Problem? Do we all agree that this is the Problem?
Criteria. What criteria are important in an effective solution? (Hint: financial is always a criteria, but never the only one.)
Options. What alternatives exist to solve this problem?
Evaluate. Compare options using our agreed criteria
Meetings can be the most powerful tool in the success of your business. However, like any tool, you can only fully reap the benefits when you use it properly. The next time you hear “let’s meet to discuss it”, or you are about to say those words yourself, pause for a moment. Take five minutes to state the problem, criteria and options on a sheet of paper. Ask: “What difference could I make that requires no one’s permission other than my own?” Do that first. Don’t call the meeting until you have done that.