I often hear managers talk to me about the time wasted at meetings. The time they consider could have been better spent doing other things, like pulling teeth. And they mention the myths that they see in their businesses. These myths have cost companies billions of dollars in wasted salary and wages.
Myth #1) Structure spoils spontaneity.
I once attended a two-day long disaster that easily cost over $40,000. Thirty people spent the first hour seeking an issue to discuss, then spent the next 15 hours arguing over insolvable problems. When I asked the manager who called the meeting, “Where’s the agenda?” the reply was, “I didn’t want to spoil the spontaneity by imposing a structure.” You’re kidding was my thought. Seriously, it was a complete waste of time and had no outcome.
Reality: If spontaneity were a universally sound business practice we would build buildings without blueprints. Of course, no smart business leader works without a plan.
The Fix: Set a goal and then prepare an agenda. Ideally, this agenda should be so clear, complete, and specific that someone else could use it to lead the meeting to obtain the accomplish the goal.
Myth #2: Since it’s my meeting I should do all the talking.
Some meetings are run like a medieval court. The chairperson sits on a verbal throne while the subjects sit in respectful silence. The big talker justifies this by thinking: if the other people in the meeting knew anything worthwhile, they’d be leading the meeting. Oh my god. Have you have this happen to you. Too many times is the verdict. Old blow-hard is a huge challenge and doesn’t value the contributions of others.
Reality: If you’re the only one talking, you’re working too hard. In addition, realize that most people protect themselves from extended monologues by sending their thoughts off on a holiday. That is, no one is paying attention to you: they’re busy daydreaming, doodling, or dreaming.
The Fix: Convey large amounts of information by a memo or email. Then call a meeting based on participant-driven activities that test or reinforce comprehension.
Myth #3: Meetings are free.
Most meetings are paid for with soft money. That is, it’s money that has already been spent on wages. In addition, no purchase request is necessary. No budget needs to be approved. All someone has to do is call a meeting. And that at the heart is horrendous. The cost of the meeting is the demoralized staff that have to attend.
Reality: Meetings are very expensive. They use people’s time, and payroll is the largest part of running a business. When people hold bad meetings, they waste the most important resource in business – the time people that spend working to earn a profit for the company.
The Fix: Design meetings to earn a profit. After all, a meeting is a business activity, not a company picnic.
There you have it. If you have anyone in your organisation that subscribes to the myths, point them in the right direction. Get clear, get an agenda, and request what the outcome they are looking for. If unable to be provided, be courageous and politely decline. If we can help you in any way, helping your managers be more productive. Simply ask us how.