24 November 2015

How much of your day do you spend in meetings?

Time is the most precious thing that we have, yet in modern business we seem to spend an excessive amount of it in meetings for the sake of meetings.
laughter is the best medicine
Whilst we’re an incredibly sociable company and I would always advocate face-to-face conversations, there is a real risk of people taking time away from their desks and day-to-day jobs for meetings, and it ending up causing disruption to your winning formula.

In my experience, the people who cause these disruptions with endless meetings are those who are demotivated and disengaged with their roles. This is a red flag to me. If I spot someone who is repeatedly in meetings with different people from across the business but providing no real results, I know that that is the time for me to sit down with them and have a conversation about how they are doing.

The plague of unnecessary meetings was first flagged up to me by my friend James Kight. James is one of the North’s greatest technology and eCommerce entrepreneurs and co-founded Printerland – a £40m turnover eCommerce machine! James had a policy at the time where he had put a stop to meetings in his office. I also know of several extremely high-profile entrepreneurs who refuse to have supplier meetings unless they are at their own head office.

It is worth noting that some suppliers and businesses are tracked on the amount of time that they spend with clients or potential clients – so spending a whole morning at your office with your team could earn them kudos or bonuses but achieve little for your business other than a distraction.

So what would I recommend?

Firstly, always set an agenda – ask, what do you want to achieve from this meeting? It is too easy to get sidetracked if you don’t set a course for the conversation. Equally it is incredibly difficult to communicate the value of people taking time out of their day if you don’t properly set out what you want to achieve.

Invariably, once you have set that goal and agenda, stick to the goal – stop the conversation if you deviate from the main aim. When you are with like-minded people, it is easy to become distracted. Setting an agenda and aim removes these distractions and enables you to recognise when you are heading away from that path.

Equally, it is important to stop the meeting if your conversation is going around in circles; sometimes it is best to come back to a topic. Some things can’t be resolved quickly, some things can end up a moot point and sometimes you perhaps have to agree to disagree.

Wherever the conversation ends, it is absolutely essential to set action points from the meeting and give people ownership of them. Assigning them to the relevant people when the meeting concludes is key to making sure that the tasks that need completing have someone ultimately responsible for them, and that each person knows what they need to do – otherwise you’ve wasted your time with the meeting anyway!

What do you think? Do we spend too much time in meetings? What are your tips for making them count?

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