The Google calendar is updated with a two hour meeting, so is the agenda – so there is definitely going to be a meeting, but it might (read: will definitely) last four hours. But more often than not, and much more often than anyone would like it, meetings are nothing but a colossal waste of time. Not only do they hinder employees from reaching their targets for the day, but just put to waste the entire to-do list and time allocation for possibly for the next two-three days.
But, meetings can be very productive, provided they are done right. Most companies and leaders fail to recognize what is going wrong and why their meetings are so unproductive, here are a few things which happen which make every meeting go astray:
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It is very common for a small sub-meeting to take place within a meeting. This dissolves the purpose of having the meeting in the first place. Agendas shift, and eventually, not everyone is involved in the discussion. There are different problems being discussed at different ends of the room. Try to stay on track and avoid losing direction, as members may lose interest and will become despondent.
Unclear motives are one of the biggest factors that lead to unproductive meetings. If you are unsure of what you are trying to achieve from a meeting, chances are that it will take you a long time to reach that goal. If you are the person who has scheduled the meeting and also intend to head it, maintain an objective calendar. Prior to having a meeting, have a two-minute discussion about your meeting objectives with your team members. This can save you hours of mindless discussion.
Your HR team can also help by creating an agenda template. Request your meeting organisers to circulate this agenda several days before a meeting so that the participants are able to understand, prepare and also make changes if needed to it. The agenda should list the meeting’s key topics, who will lead which parts of the discussion, how long each segment will take and what the expected outcomes are.
A discussion can turn in to a heated debate in no time. Every member will have his or her opinion on a particular topic, and it might get difficult to control argumentative behaviour. Always push to gently respond to such criticism and stir the topic away to bring everyone back to the actual discussion.
Poor time management is another cause of unproductive meetings. Attentive and busy people never want a meeting to be delayed, while unproductive people often waste time and turn up late. How do you fix such behaviour? You can penalise such behaviour in order to lay emphasis on punctuality. For instance, you can start the meeting without them and leave them on their own to catch up with the discussion and deal with the embarrassment of turning up late. This might help curb such behaviour.
Ask yourself if you really need everyone you have chosen to be part of the meeting. Could some be left out? Maybe you could email them the minutes later. By having just the important people in the meeting room, you can save a lot of time.
The end result of most meetings is that there is a lot of talk and little action. The issue here is that most people walk into a meeting with an idea and walk out with a different understanding. The best way to avoid this is by creating a shared document with the points discussed at the meeting. In addition to this, have a document called action and decisions. Let’s say Raman has been assigned a particular task in a meeting. Assign a timeline for the completion of Raman’s task and share this document with everyone concerned. This also increases accountability. The next meeting can be a follow-up on the same.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to incorporate fun in meetings you are planning. Allow people to laugh, be creative and move about. You might just be surprised with the results.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)