Avoid Being Held Hostage in Staff Meetings

You’ll see more “how to” articles in IB in 2013, and so to warm up, I’ve compiled a few suggestions for how to massage a common workplace sore spot – time wasted in staff meetings. Forget the corporate cost of everyone’s time (salaries plus 30% benefits and related expenses) and instead consider the cost to you of wasting another hour of your life that you can never get back.

Here are five strategies for turning a staff meeting into an opportunity rather than an obligation:

Set an agenda. Define the meeting’s purpose in one actionable sentence: “Establish timetable to launch Product D.” Meetings are useful for identifying specific goals (which are attainable, measurable, and relevant) and/or to assign tasks. 

Share facts in advance of a meeting. Forgo meetings intended to “get together to share information” or recap the last meeting; instead, retrain yourself or others to broadcast an informative memo or white paper through email instead of at sit-down meetings.

Know your role. For larger groups, a timekeeper makes sure the meeting ends at the appointed time; a gatekeeper keeps participants focused on the agenda item or topic; a recorder writes down all agreed-upon decisions, assigned tasks, and deadlines; and a facilitator lists new ideas/brainstorming ideas on a flip chart (or laptop or tablet) and makes sure everyone has a chance to contribute. Everyone around the table is a participant – or else they are honestly expendable, for purposes of the meeting. 


Establish accountability. Meeting time is most productive when used to move a project or the company ahead. Who is going to do what, by when? A worthwhile meeting does not conclude with “it was decided to move ahead with sustainability plans.” It ends with “Joe will meet with the janitor to determine best practices for recycling and report back before the next meeting; Jan will contact the building owner to request lighting changes this month,” etc.

Provide concise follow-up. After the meeting ends, concisely recap results in terms of actions taken or tasked. A recap of the discussion is unnecessary. This summary is then sent to all appropriate parties so participants don’t have to relive the meeting while retelling it to others who missed it, or to “fill in” others who were not invited to the meeting.

Once I drafted and adopted these principles at IB, we found we didn’t need a weekly staff meeting; instead, we have more focused working group meetings. What would a change to this structure mean for your company?

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