Do not waste your time in meetings !

Simple tricks to help you manage your business

Do not waste your time in meetings !

We are sitting around a large and heavy wooden table. In its middle there are charging cables, touch screens, microphones, and the control button for the screen. Each of us on a comfy leather chair that probably costed about $1,000 apiece. The sun outside is setting down and the clouds are turning from a boring grey into a magnificent cocktail of colours. Orange, red, yellow, blue and even some pink are coming through. I look around the table. The room is full. Ten, very busy people. All senior and well vested in business. Everyone is typing away, either on their laptops or smart phones. Another ten or so dialled in from their homes. We are just waiting for the most senior person to join and then we will start.

Finally, they walk in. We start. It gets quite intense . . . we are discussing small adjustments. At some point it gets emotional. Some start to be passionate and eagerly debate with one another .

After about 1 hour, the meeting is over. We reached an agreement. Tired but satisfied we all get to go back to the comfort of our own spaces.

Productive meeting you may think. We came together, discussed what was on the agenda, found an agreement and then closed the meeting. It matters not that it got a bit heated.

I would tend agree. However, it was also a wasteful meeting. From the 20 odd participants that were there, only about 5 were actively joining on the discussion. The rest was just there physically. Not even sure if they were there mentally.

I dislike the culture of too many meetings. In particular, when they become wasteful. I have therefore developed three overriding principles that have helped me stay focus and productive.

  1. If you attend a meeting, then make sure you participate actively.
  2. If you are not expected to speak up, turn a meeting into a learning experience.
  3. Join all departmental meetings. Speak up if you can and as a minimum pay attention and learn.

If you attend a meeting in person (or virtually), then participate. Speak up and say what is on your mind. As long as it is relevant. As much as it would be interesting to hear about your Lego model building hobby, it is really not that helpful. Generally, everyone who is invited to a meeting is there for a reason. They have something they could contribute. If that is the case, speak up.

If you are going to sit on a meeting and say nothing, even though you could, then it's just a waste of your time. In that case it would be better to just leave.

On rare occasions, you will be invited as a backup. Your senior is presenting and they will need you in case of any details. You may not need to speak up. In this case a successful tactic is to actively take notes and share them with your manager or senior afterwards. This shows active engagement and contribution.

Finally, there are those departmental meetings that we all have to attend. Very often these are just update meetings, and contribution is not expected from just you. My recommendation here, in order or importance, is as follows:

  • make an effort to show up - it demonstrates you are serious about the team,
  • contribute if you can - it makes the meeting more lively,
  • listen actively - this will help you stay up to date and you may learn something.

I would strongly discourage you from writing emails in any meetings. Either in person or virtual. It is simply rude and sets a wrong precedent. What's even more important is that writing emails during meetings shows other participants you do not care as much about them.

I have been using these three principles for years now. It has worked especially well when I was junior and moving up through the ranks. Try them out for yourself. Adopt to your needs and circumstances. Have fun with it.

Cheers. Remember to subscribe.

Until next time.

M | K