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Too much time wasted in unproductive meetings. Meeting overload. Zoom fatigue. Article after article decries the plague of too many meetings gobbling up our time.
Looking for data about how awful this problem is and some recycled quick tips?
No problem! These are just a few of the articles published on this topic in the past few months.
- If we’re all so busy, why isn’t anything getting done? (Jan 10, McKinsey)
- "When do you pee?" Managing Meeting Overload in 2022 (Jan 19, LinkedIn Pulse)
- How to deal with meetings overload: cancel a lot of them (Feb 22, Irish Times)
- Dear Manager, You’re Holding Too Many Meetings (March 9, Harvard Business Review)
- It’s confirmed: meetings are a waste of time (March 25, New Statesman)
- He Built a $3 Billion Business to Solve Calendar Headaches. Here's His Vision for the Future of Meetings (March, Inc)
- How To Have Better Meetings (Apr 1, Corporate Rebels)
- This is What Happens When There Are Too Many Meetings (Apr 4, The Atlantic)
- 5 ways to put an end to your 'meeting inflation (Apr 6, Advisory Board)
- Are your meetings sh*t? 9 tried and tested ways to improve meetings in your business (Apr 8, Monkhouse and Company)
The articles keep coming, but the challenge persists.
One reason: these complaints don't actually apply to all meetings. People are not upset that they spend too much time meeting with clients, or have too many solution design sessions.
The problem is all the status meetings, the team meetings, and the ad-hoc "synch-ups", "check-ins", and "touch-bases" that drag teams down.
Topics: meeting design
Several years ago I wrote an article for Inc. about 3 Powerful Ways to Help Your Team Cope With Tragedy. At the time, the tragedy was the burning of Notre Dame.
I enjoy planning meetings. I also enjoy large, easy jigsaw puzzles.
When you know the basic shape you’re going for, and you have a bunch of the pieces handy, it can be quite satisfying to get them to all fit together into a nice, coherent picture. With a jigsaw puzzle, it’s very clear that the value is in the activity itself. People who puzzle do so because they enjoy spending their time figuring it out—not because they’re genuinely curious about what the end picture might be.
Like the picture you see when you finish a jigsaw puzzle, most of the plans you get at the end of a planning meeting aren’t really meant to last.
Topics: meeting design
Right now, many teams are dealing with massive turnover. Reports on the "Turnover Tsunami" and "The Great Resignation" reveal staggering volatility across industries and countries. Have you driven past the restaurants in your area recently? If so, you've seen the desperate billboards advertising hiring bonuses, increased wages, and pleading with customers to forgive their limited services.
Why is this happening? Lots of reasons.
According to Gallup, it may have nothing to do with the organization, the manager, or the team; this is part of what happens when major events force people to re-evaluate their life choices. Normally, major events like graduations, marriages, births, and deaths are infrequent and sprinkled randomly across the workforce. During these last 18 months, every single person experienced a major life event all at once. Everyone is re-evaluating their life choices, and a lot of them are deciding it's time for a change.
In short, it may not be about you right now.
Of course, if your whole team just quit, it might be entirely about you. Your company might be a terrible place to work. You might be an awful manager. Gallup also says that the Great Resignation is made worse by a pervasive Great Discontent.
Whatever the reason, labor shortages are making it hard to get work done.
The cascading failures are unraveling the supply chain. Whole teams are walking away from complicated systems, leaving their replacements with no one to tell them how it all works. This makes the new jobs especially difficult because customers haven't relaxed their expectations. Kindness, unfortunately, is not as contagious as Covid-19.
While many are leaving their jobs, it's likely that boredom, loneliness, or finances will drive them into new jobs soon.
What does this mean for employers and people leaders?
Most organizations host regular meetings involving everyone on their teams.
These meetings go by many names: all-hands, all-staff, all teams, town halls, business update meetings, Teatime, TGIF, and more. This form of meeting, where you gather everyone in your tribe at the same time, is thousands of years old and practiced by every kind of group. Unfortunately, none of these names provide much guidance about how to make these meetings worthwhile.
Like every meeting, the key to a great all-hands meeting is to clearly define the purpose and intended outcomes in advance. Why do you host these meetings? What should be different afterward as a result?
"All Hands" just describes the attendee list.
I've been asked how to improve all-hands meetings by several clients over the years. In this article, I've pulled together all those separate bits of advice in one place.
Read on to learn:
Topics: meeting design
Successful businesses do the things that others know they should do …. but generally don’t.~ Ari Weinzwig's 7th Natural Law of Business
So let's talk about those things you need to do to run great everyday business meetings with your teams. And yes, I'm going to share some guidelines you may already know.
Hopefully, you'll be inspired to follow them.
It's worth the effort. The leaders we've met who follow these "rules" enjoy more productivity, more loyalty, more engagement, better decision making, and less BS drama between team members than everyone else. And frankly, none of this is actually that hard to do.
Here are five rules for team meetings that I share with my business clients, and that I wish someone had taught me when I started my business.
What happened? So what does that mean? Now what should we do going forward?
In a retrospective meeting, you and your team work to answer these three questions together. When you’re reviewing a short event that just happened, your retrospective meeting might be very short as you all simply work to answer these questions directly.
When you’re looking at something as long as a year or something involving lots of complex interrelated parts, it doesn’t work to just ask “So, what happened in 2020?” That’s more likely to encourage day drinking than useful insights.
For something as 2020 as 2020, you’ll need to put a bit more structure in place if you want a useful result.
Running an End-of-Year Retrospective
How was your year?
In this short post I'll describe one way to run an annual retrospective so you and your group can reflect on what happened this past year, discuss what you make of it, and begin to decide what the next wise actions to take next year might be.
Too much time wasted in unproductive meetings. This remains a top contender on the list of workplace complaints, as it has been for at least 700 years.
Some folks wrestling with this complaint assume that the solution is to simply reduce the amount of time spent in meetings, ideally through the elimination of as many meetings as possible. This is a tidy, easily measured approach, which can yield a quick claim to victory.
How is your organization going to survive and thrive in the emerging economy?
That's the question on everyone's mind right now.
Later when we look back, it will seem so clear. Our grandchildren will shake their heads and say:
"If I was alive back then, I totally would have...."
And then the smug little darlings will fill in the blank with whatever proves to be so very obvious in hindsight. Whatever that is, it's not so obvious now.
All we have are clues. Historic events that share some of the same patterns. Bits and pieces of evidence that, if we could just summon enough inner Sherlock, we could see a perfectly correct, elementary solution.
We have a fogged-over, dirty window of opportunity. We can't see what's on the other side of this window, and we're racing towards the future at full speed.
We have no choice but to move forward into this uncertainty. We can't wait for the answers, because if we do, we'll miss the opportunity to be a part of creating those answers.
Topics: meeting design