Every day, our clients complain about having too many meetings, meetings going too long, and meetings not being productive. Without a doubt, meetings have become one of the most common mindset killers as well as one of the biggest pains in many clients' days. Some clients have even proposed having days with no meetings, while others say they refuse to attend any meetings and do all of their work via email instead. To us, this is insane.
This is like blaming your phone for unproductive conversations. The meeting is just the phone. What you put in, how you approach it, who you invite, etc. will determine what you will get out of it.
Rather than accept that meetings have to be a mindset killer... or that they have to be a waste of time... or that they are too long, how about thinking differently. At Tignum, we try to think in increments of impact. Meetings are one vehicle to create an impact. So the question is, what impact do you want to come from this meeting?
If this meeting were to be a success, what would success look like at the end? What type of impact do we need to make? Since meetings take time from your highly talented team members, there is a cost to spending time together. If the benefit (to those attending, to the company, to the brand, to the customers, etc.) doesn't exceed the cost, you are playing a losing game. Be careful though because many times there is impact and value you don't see on the surface.
Too often I hear people say, "I don't need to be at this meeting." or "Why does that person need to be at this meeting?" I wonder if this isn't again asking the wrong question. What if having myself or that other person at the meeting saves 10 emails, 3 phone calls, and 2 more meetings in the future because they heard the conversation, know the context, understand the stakeholders, and gained significant clarity?
Similarly, one of the biggest complaints is that meetings are always too long. What is too long? I have seen people end meetings because they were staying "disciplined" and wanted to be sure to end on the exact time only to need two more meetings to answer the one question that never got answered. I realize most of us are overbooked back-to-back, meaning going longer than expected creates chaos, but that longer meeting isn't the cause of the chaos. Your entire approach to how you schedule your day may be creating chaos, causing you to have 8 ineffective meetings a day instead of fewer, more impactful meetings.
I'm a realist and realize that somewhere in Forbes magazine or on LinkedIn there are probably 100 articles with some version of a top 10 list of must-dos to have a productive meeting. I'm not saying that some of these tips are not useful, but what good is it to put a time limit, people limit, or meeting limit in place if you are starting from and ending with the wrong thinking?
Our thinking is that different thinking drives way different outcomes. Try thinking of your meetings in terms of impact, and ask yourself - am I adding any impact? If not, you may be the problem. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.