How productive are your meetings?  What are you doing about it?

According to research done by themuse, more than $37 Billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings.

Calculating meeting productivity is hard, which is why we’ve created the free meeting productivity calculator. Use the calculator today to establish a baseline.  Like using a map, you’ll know where you’re starting and establish a goal of where you want to be.  Start a simple trend chart to monitor progress on meeting productivity in your organization.

Sound silly?  Think about everything else your organization tracks and measures, then refer to the $37 Billion number above.

Do something about it now.

Download the Meeting Productivity Calculator by filling out the form below, then implement the 4 Non-Negotiables outlined in the rest of the post.

Here are 4 non-negotiables to get your meeting productivity moving in the right direction.

RESPECT TIME:

Show up on time.  Start on time.  End on time.

Ever noticed how annoyed you get when the doctor is late for your appointment or when your food is late?  It’s annoying and distracting to say the least.  Your meetings aren’t any different.  When you don’t start and end on time you convey the message:  others are not important, their time is not valuable, their family is not important, and in your mind, they have nothing better to do.  If they are not important and their time doesn’t matter, why should or would they care about you or the organization?

If nothing else, be selfish here.  Want to get out of work on time to spend personal time with your family or friends?  How many minutes did you lose today or this week for meetings starting and ending late?

Need some help?  Simply use the timer on your smart phone, pick up a kitchen timer or ask someone in the meeting to monitor time.

Respect time!

CLEAR AGENDA AND OBJECTIVE:

Just because you know why you’re in the meeting, doesn’t mean anyone else knows why they’re attending.  And, NO, it’s not a given.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I showed up to work with a team and all anyone could tell me was they were present because their boss told them to.  (REALLY!?!?!?!)  It’s the meeting organizer’s responsibility to share this information up front.  It’s each attendee’s responsibility to ask before the meeting if they are not clear.  It is NOT acceptable to show up unprepared because you didn’t know what to prepare for in the first place.

Vague titles like “Staff Meeting” or “War Room” or “Project Status Meeting” don’t mean squat if you haven’t communicated the objective and expectations for participants.  Without clarity everyone shows up with their story of what is expected and not uncommonly the whole meeting is spent clearing up misconceptions, misinterpretations, purpose, roles, and setting a clear agenda and purpose for the next inevitable repeat of the same meeting once all the noise is addressed.  Not exactly productive use of time.

Check yourself!  Take 30 seconds to write down the agenda and objective for each meeting you attend.  If you can’t write it down in 30 seconds, there’s your clue clarity is missing.

Get out of story, into clarity.  Ambiguity will take every second of your life you’re willing to give.

NECESSARY PEOPLE ONLY:

Have only necessary people in your meetings.  If people aren’t participating, question their need to attend.  Dismiss non-participants if they really aren’t needed and engage them if they are.

Unless the purpose of the meeting is truly an update, don’t have people attend merely for listening while the rest of the room talks.  Updates can be sent via email or provided in a short call or face to face debrief.  Don’t waste an hour or more of someone’s time for something you can deliver in 5 minutes.

Leaders, design your team’s meeting attendance to reduce duplication.  For example, have staff attend meetings that require a great amount of detail about a project they are working and let them debrief you afterward instead of you both attending.  Setup proactive prep communication prior to high level, less detailed meetings so you can attend with knowledge enough to make decisions and leave your staff to continue working without losing precious time.  An exercise in periodically evaluating all meetings attended by you and your staff may feel like unproductive time yet it’s nothing compared to the time you’re probably losing every week as a team currently.

COMMUNICATION:

Watch for safety to share honest, open thoughts in meetings.  You don’t have to be the leader to notice when someone is interrupted or shut down during discussions and call it out.  It’s everyone’s responsibility to set a culture of open communication.  Without it meetings are just one-sided speeches.

Some people are wired to speak up loud, proud, and often while others are wired to absorb and process before they speak slow and cautiously.  This isn’t bad or good.  It just is.  Recognize people are unique, be aware and manage discussions appropriately to get the most from your team.  StrengthsFinder is our go-to starting tool for demystifying communication on teams.  For more insight check out Trybal Performance Blogs on Strengths and Communication.  Better yet, check out the “How To Talk About It” course and upcoming Workplace Bullying online course for your organization.

Finally, Leaders, communicate with your staff why you attend and don’t attend certain meetings and why you want them to attend or not attend certain meetings.  Communicate quickly and clearly when information discussed in a meeting affects your staff.  Stories about what goes on in meetings and who attends versus doesn’t are jet fuel for workplace gossip and distrust.  Remove the distraction.  Communicate.

Download the Meeting Productivity Calculator and take back your meetings today!

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