Most Meetings are Fruitless


“Most meetings are fruitless”

…begins one of my favourite passages of a book called “Making Ideas Happen” by the brilliant Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of Behance. It appeals to me on a number of levels. I’m sure it appeals to you too. 

Too many times have we’ve sat through badly planned meetings. Meetings where the agenda doesn’t have anything to do with your responsibilities and meetings that just go way too long.

Running a meeting is an art. It’s a skill that needs to be cultivated. But often people don’t consider this at all. Just because you hold the talking stick, doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job. We can all get better at what we do, and meetings are one of the most overlooked areas, that actually have a rather significant impact in your management influence. It’s often overlooked because it feels like one of the areas that we wouldn’t dare confront someone over. Meetings, as we will look at, can carry within them a power-play. They can become mere signs of who’s really in control here. And as such have been used by small people to assert their authority and empire.

The unfortunate outcome of this, is that something so helpful, has the potential to become so distorted and unhelpful. It’s very simple in my mind, if I get threatened whenever someone offers me the slightest bit of advice about how my meetings could be more helpful, then I may find that I am using meetings as stamps of my authority. This is not good enough because meetings are there to help us achieve more and achieve better, not remind people who is in charge.

Here are some helpful tips to get your meetings running better, so they stop wasting your valuable time:

1. Ban the automatic meeting.

Meetings that happen just because another week has rolled around need to be outlawed. Unless you have real actionable outcomes that need to considered with the input of the team, ban it. Any information exchanges can be done via email. Reports can be done by email. Directions can be given via email. Updates to tasks can be done via email. Unless there are things that require team input, encourage your leaders to do away with automatic meetings.

2. End meetings with required actions

At the end of a meeting, go around the group and ask them to relay what action steps they will be walking away with. This does 2 things. One is that it helps people own what they need to do. And Two is that it will also show you who didn’t really need to be at this meeting by seeing who doesn’t have any required actions from this meeting. This will be good to keep in mind when planning future meetings. You don’t have to invite everyone.

3. Call out the useless meetings

If meetings don’t result in required action then call them out as useless meetings. It’s your responsibility to your employer to be using your time wisely. A meeting completely stops the work flow in a day. It not only takes time away from your tasks, but it can also completely disrupt your flow of productivity. And then having to get back into your workflow after meetings takes precious time too. Bad investments in time = missed opportunities to be achieving more. Call out the useless meetings.

4. Conduct standing meetings

People are less likely to “waffle on” when they are also gradually getting weak at the knees. The awareness of the fact that people are literally standing around for you, helps give you a better perspective on how you want to use your time. Simple really.

5. Don’t call meetings out of your own insecurity

Don’t just call meetings because you want to be assured of all the work going on around you. There are better ways to feel in control than costing people their time and workflow. Scott Belksy says, “Great leaders candidly ask themselves why they are calling  a meeting, and they are fiercely protective of their team’s time.”

6. Don’t have hour long meetings

When you restrict yourself to less time, you realise that you can say the same amount you used to say and also discover the amount of filler material you used to put in just because you had an hour. It’s just like popcorn, they give it to you in a bucket – you’ll eat the bucket. You don’t need all that popcorn. But because it came in that size, much to your detriment, you will keep eating away through the movie to find it all gone at the end. 


Go and have better meetings. 



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