Take a moment to consider how many hours you spend in meetings each week. Is 5, 10, 20, more? How many hours do your team members spend in meetings each week?
When you add it all up, even a small team of 5 can spend over 1,000 hours per year in meetings.
Now think of the cost in payroll. What about the opportunity cost of the work you all could be doing if you weren’t in all these meetings?
It’s time to stop having meetings — at least some of them.
When I consult with businesses, I like to sit down with them and write out what meetings they have and how much time is spent in those meetings (don’t forget the one-off meetings as well). Usually, this is enough to realize something needs to change. If you want to dig deeper, you can calculate the cost of those meetings.
Next, we will look at the meetings they’ve had over the last 1 or 2 weeks, and I’ll ask for a list of decisions that they made. This is where it gets ugly. More than half of the time, there is no clear record of what decisions were made. Another 25% of the time, it is unclear who is responsible for following through on those decisions. I am yet to see a client who knows what decisions were made, who owns them, the current status of each one.
Could you list all the decisions your team has made over the last 2 weeks?
This lack of structure and accountability is why you’re in meetings all the time. Decisions are made too quickly, and there’s no follow-through. This leads to a cycle of things breaking down, emergency meetings to fix them, emergency actions to patch them up, and then you’re on to the next emergency.
Here’s what you need to do, instead.
How to have awesome meetings
1. Decide it is necessary now
Take an inventory of every meeting in your organization and reassess whether that meeting is essential now. Take the time to write out why the meeting is being held, who needs to be there, and before each session, let all the attendees know what topics will be discussed.
2. Everyone in the meeting has a voice
Exclude passive attendees. Only invite people to the meeting (or even the part of a meeting) where their voice matters. If you are making announcements, there are other, more efficient strategies (like email, voicemail, or Slack).
Only keep people in the meetings who use their voice and create space for others to use theirs as well. You will have to encourage some team members to speak up in meetings and others to lay back a little.
3. Make clear, actionable decisions
A meeting is only as valuable as the decisions that are made, and those decisions are only valuable if you execute. Be sure to list out every decision that is made, who is responsible for it, and when it is due. Do this during the meeting, not after. Don’t leave the room until everyone is on the same page about who needs to do what by when.
4. Follow through and execute every decision you make
Hold your team accountable and give them the liberty to hold you accountable. Now that everyone is clear, it should be highly uncommon that a decision isn’t executed (You should miss no more than 1 in 10). When you first start, this can be pretty tough. I recommend slowing down slightly and limiting the number of decisions. This will give you and your team the best chances of getting in a new rhythm of executing well.
Also, discuss the rules of engagement with your team ahead of time. Decide what the best methods are for accountability for your specific team and culture. Then stick to it, especially when it is hard or uncomfortable. Your team will thank you in the end.
For a time, you will likely need to reduce the number of meetings and the number of decisions made during those meetings. You will need to focus on the hard work of decision follow-through and accountability. In time, your team will gain a momentum that will launch your organization into the most prosperous time in your history.