Meetings reloaded

2018. May 12.

Say goodbye to boring meetings and embrace the era of productiveness!

Know the meme “Bored? Lonely? Nothing to do? Just call a meeting!”? Sure you do. You’ve probably received it from a colleague, perhaps in the middle of a meeting. In the US, nearly 40 percent of employee time is spent in meetings and when it comes to upper management, this can easily go up to as high as 50%. Even though execs consider about two thirds of them utterly pointless, and more than a third of meeting participants admit to dozing off during discussions. But if you think that you’re only wasting time, think again. Unnecessary meetings cost American companies a whopping USD 37 billion. Every. Year. So how to run meetings more efficiently? Here are three tips from Dávid Nádas, Codecool’s soft skills expert to ensure that everyone leaves the weekly status discussion happy.

1. Tune in

“First off, what can really work miracles in improving efficiency is ‘checking in’ at the beginning of a meeting. That is, every participant sums up how they’re feeling in a couple of sentences,” suggests Dávid. The “check-in round” isn’t a roll call, however. It’s more like tuning into each other so you know what’s up with who, be it that they’ve been suffering from a toothache all morning or they’ve simply got up on the wrong side of the bed. The point is that everyone should know and understand what’s going on with the others so they can react the right way. This may sound more like a waste of time than an efficiency booster but nothing could be further from the truth. Google did some serious research involving 180+ Google teams over two years and found that it’s psychological safety that sets successful teams apart. Meaning that team members aren’t afraid of sharing their ideas, concerns and even their problems with each other.

2. Goal focus in focus

Let’s not forget that a meeting means, by definition, a goal-focused discussion, where participants come together to move something forward in the organization. Sounds obvious?Not so fast. Almost half of employees are working on something completely unrelated, while 9 out of 10 people prefer to daydream during meetings. It can help a great deal if we clearly state right at the beginning of the session where we wanna get to by the end of it. Of course, just like feedback, goal setting is only useful if it’s detailed. Instead of “it would be nice to solve this problem”, let’s say that we’d like to leave the table with a five-step action plan that will solve it, with owners and deadlines assigned. Or that we’ll need to come up with a name for the new product. The important thing is that everyone should be clear about what aim they’ll be working towards, and that this aim can be monitored and assessed during and after the meeting.  

3. Divide and facilitate

So you’ve all agreed on the meeting’s goal, you say? Perfect! Now let’s see how to get there. Three or four people can probably manage on their own. Like at the office Christmas party or in the classroom, members of such microgroups can communicate and play well with each other. With five participants or more, however, it’s easier said than done. Enter the facilitator. Who’s that? Someone who monitors and coordinates the team’s work. They observe, ask and control, making sure that attendees won’t interrupt each other, get into a fight or run out of time. A team keeps venting instead of working towards the solution? It’s the facilitator’s task to help them get back on track. Ten or more people are attending your meeting? Start with setting up working groups of three or four, who can work on a problem independently. When time’s up, bring them back together so they can share their solutions and find common ground.