How to Put a Stop to Unproductive Meetings

Ugh!!! There’s yet another meeting on your calendar for tomorrow morning and you can’t think of anything you dread more….well, maybe that same meeting on a Monday morning, right? We hate bad meetings too.

When done well, meetings can be a way for your team to discuss issues, resolve problems and come up with innovative ideas. But the opposite holds true, if your meetings aren’t managed well, they can suck the life out of all things productive. In fact, if you run a Google search for meetings, you will find discouraging quotes like this:

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings”.” – Dave Barry, American Writer and Humorist


How about this one,

“A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.”   – James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise

On average more than $37 billion a year is wasted on more than 25 Million meetings per day. Yes, I said per day, the fact of the matter is more than 67% of meetings are unproductive. I don’t know about you, but I hate the thought of wasting valuable time and money.

Workers worldwide are plagued with spirit-crushing, agonizing, time-wasting meetings. Since so many people hate meetings, why do we still use them? Is it even possible for a leader to conquer this business beast and turn the time spent on meetings into an uplifting part of your work culture? Let’s explore!

10 Steps to make your meetings more productive

  1. Define your purpose – The most productive meetings always have a defined purpose with a well-thought-out, written agenda and realistic time frames that allow for an exchange of thinking to get to better outcomes.
  2. Distribute the agenda in advance – This allows people to be well prepared before the meeting. Different styles process information differently. By sharing the plan in advance, participants have time to think. They come ready with questions, concerns, or ideas and allow you to keep the meeting on track & create the outcome you desire.
  3. Assign a facilitator – Every meeting should include the role of a facilitator who keeps the group on task and moving forward. Even when multiple-people are sharing-out in a meeting, having someone play the role of facilitator can go a long way towards maintaining order and focus in meetings. (Bonus: the manager or supervisor of the team does not have to be the facilitator all the time. By rotating this responsibility among the team, you model shared leadership and support skill development among all staff.
  4. Don’t allow one person to dominate the meeting Use your facilitator to return the conversation back to the topic of the meeting or give the conversation back to the person who was interrupted. For example, The Time Keeper (another recommended role) can interrupt saying, “Mike, thank you for your input. To make sure we all get out of here on time, let’s listen to what Allison was saying.”
  5. Encourage involvement – Pay attention to the dynamics in the room and invite those who aren’t actively engaging in the meeting to share their opinions. Silence can be very loud. You want to be sure to get all perspectives on the table so the group can make informed decisions.
  6. Verify the agreements. Be sure to track commitments throughout the meeting and summarize what’s been agreed to at the end of the meeting for participants to confirm.  This goes a long way towards validating meeting success (i.e. did we achieve our objectives), avoiding miscommunications and setting your project up for success.
  7. Use a parking lot. When things get off track in the meeting, but are worthy of discussion, put them on “the parking lot”. Write the topic down on flip chart paper or a white board so everyone can see the issue visually. This is a placeholder; then before the meeting is over, agree on the appropriate next step to give the issue its fair amount of attention (ex. Schedule another meeting, assign the topic to someone to research etc.)  
  8. No Multitasking – Minimize distractions. Establish ground rules for the use of smartphones in meetings. Close doors or blinds to block out passing traffic in hallways etc.
  9. Start ontime – End ontime – As the old saying goes “Bad habits are hard to break”, so set a good precedent and honor yourself and your co-worker’s time by starting and ending your meetings on time. By keeping to the agenda and the time allotted for each topic you are able to make your attendee feel respected. If they feel respected, they will respect you. Another way to do this is to always end on time or end early. Yes, you can do that.
  10. Be Creative – Do not be afraid to be creative. Customizing your meetings to your team environment and breaking up the monotony will go a long way to making your meetings more productive.

Final Thoughts

Turning an environment of unproductive meetings into one with productive meetings can be done with knowledge building, practice, and reinforcement. It will not happen overnight. But by investing in your meeting facilitation skills, you can reclaim time, money and productivity.

If you need to transform your meeting culture, our Problem Solver Coaching Package may help. A Painefree Coach will help you can vanquish unproductive meetings once and for all.. Contact us today to find out how.

By | 2018-09-27T16:33:12-05:00 September 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on How to Put a Stop to Unproductive Meetings