Do Meetings Run Your Life? 7 tips to make them manageable

September always feels like a good time to reset.  The summer is over, we’ve had the last long weekend and it’s time to get down to business.

I’ve been hearing people say that they sit in so many meetings that they’ve lost their will to live.  Then, there is never enough time for their real work.

Meetings are supposed to help you stay informed and collaborate. How did they take over your day?

Now would be a great time to rethink the meetings you attend and how they run.

Personally Reset:
Look across the month at all the meetings you attend.  Pick the ones where the meeting just wouldn’t go on if you weren’t there.  Keep those.

Then look at the rest – why are you going? 
-If you go to stay informed, can someone else go and give you a summary?
-Are you going because you want facetime with this group? Consider going once a month to stay involved.
-If you go because the organiser wants your authority to make it “serious” try coaching them to have their own influence.

Really think about what you are attending.  Most of us notice we have a meeting in our diary on the day it’s scheduled and rush off to attend.  Be ruthless about what you accept and you will find you don’t miss out on that much.

Reset Meetings – 7 Tips for have better meetings
1.  You know the obvious – What are you trying to achieve here?
Yes, it helps to have an agenda. Better yet, make it work for you.  Decide what you want or need to achieve in the meeting and tell everyone that upfront.

Try to avoid putting “Review status” on the agenda.  It’s just wrong to waste time going over everything.  For business as usual, ask for significant updates or issues.  Ask for small wins you can all celebrate.

2.  Listen to connect
At the beginning, ask people to: Listen to connect rather than listen to defend.  If you set this tone before the meeting starts, it doesn’t sound personal.  You are asking everyone to take that stance.  Judith Glaser makes a strong case in “Conversational Intelligence” that with this one change can make your teams better and more collaborative.

3. Focus, focus, focus
Set out a few other suggestions.  Ask everyone to look each other in the eye.  Put away laptops.  Put away phones, sneaky peeks are contagious.  Ask one person to take notes and send them around.

If everyone in the room focuses you can get a lot done quickly.  Try a stand up meeting for a very focused 10 minutes.

If you’ve committed to go to this meeting, then put away your phone/laptop and get things done.  If you have critical emails – decline the meeting.  No one benefits from you doing both.

Equally, if you notice someone is not involved, call on them.  Ask them a question, get them working with you.  If this part of the meeting really doesn’t involve them all, see tip 4 below.

4.  More people is not a better meeting.
Let people speak early if they only have a small part.  Then invite them to leave in a generous way.  Tell them you know they are busy and they are welcome to go. People are embarrassed to get up and leave – give them permission.

5. Keep it shorter than usual
Set your meetings for 30 or 45 minutes instead of the usual hour.  Ask someone to flag when you have 10 minutes left.  If you aren’t going to get through everything – use that last 10 minutes to put small groups together to move things on.

6.  Share the “speaking stick”
Google found in their research into meetings (see below) that their most effective teams balanced everyone speaking about the same amount.  Keep the subjects moving and spread around the information to be covered among several people.

7.  Use One to One’s differently
A lot of managers have set up one to ones with their direct reports or with their own manager.  Often these turn into a work status report.  If you’re going to invest the time, change the focus, you’ll see a difference.
Use one to ones to talk about:
-Career direction and what steps to consider next
-Ask for more autonomy on a project – talk about the authority you want and how you will keep them informed
-Ask for help or guidance.  Be specific about the challenge and where you are stuck
-Talk about your wins, big and small.  If you’ve done something new or had a good result share it
-Ask where you can help them.  If you don’t really know what your boss does, ask where you can take something off their plate – it will bridge the gap in your understanding of the next role. If you are the boss, consider what you can pass on.

Get out of the meeting rut
We are stuck in the meeting rut because we don’t take time to change things. I know, you don’t have any time because you’re always in a meeting…

Seize the moment.  Talk to everyone you work with about doing it differently.  If you can control the meeting culture you could change your life.

And a bonus bit:
In researching what helps meetings, I discovered this study from the giant of data.

Google did an extensive study to understand what made some of their teams so successful while others just survived.  Here’s an article that explains what they learned:

What Google learned in its quest to build the perfect team

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