Most workplaces have problems with people being “in” meetings. I am not referring to being late. That is an entirely different issue.
I am talking about once the meeting begins. In today’s high-paced technology distracted workplace, too often people are busy tapping away on their laptops or checking email on their iPhone.
Does this happen at your company?
Here is one very powerful rule for more productive meetings:
“If you are in the meeting, you are in the meeting.”
This means if you are going to be in the room, you must participate. You cannot attend if you are going to work on other things.
Meetings Cost Money
In today’s Outlook happy world, many people are oblivious to the fact that meetings cost money.
If you are locking a dozen of your senior managers in a room for 2 hours to discuss a issue, you are making a monetary investment with their time.
I have seen extreme examples of this where executives are scheduled for multi-hour meetings to discuss an item so trivial that it involved a few thousand dollars. How much money do you think you just spent reaching a simple decision?
There are even some great calculators out there to help you determine how much you are spending on your meeting.
In or Out…
Make a choice. Either you are going to be in the meeting and participate or you will not be there.
I have seen people phone into a meeting down the hall so they can sit at their desk and work on other things. Do you think they were productive contributors to the meeting?
Unfortunately, some companies do not give you a choice about attending meetings.
7 Rules for Being “In the Meeting”
Here are some simple rules to keep people “In the Meeting…”
- Ensure it is a Meeting – Many meetings should never happen. They should be a one-on-one, or a phone call. Make sure your team only schedules meetings when multiple team members need to get together to discuss or debate something.
- Invite the Right people – People tend to invite everybody to their meeting. Maybe it makes them feel important. Why invite 8 people if only 3 need to weigh in on a decision? People who don’t need to be there shouldn’t even be invited. You are wasting their time.
- The “Right To Decline” – This idea makes many managers nervous. But you will be amazed how much more productive meetings become when you give team members the “Right to Decline.” If people feel comfortable declining or bowing out of a meeting that they shouldn’t be at, it will improve team productivity. It will also help drive Rule #1.
- Be on Time – This is a given. Note people for not being on time. Some companies actually add it to the meeting minutes. Practice a strict 10 minute rule. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you cannot join the meeting. How many times has your team restarted a meeting at the 25 minute point?
- Be prepared – Just showing up at the meeting is a waste of everyone’s time. If you are not prepared to discuss the topic at hand, you should cancel the meeting and reschedule. I have seen a meeting to review a 100 page document that was sent out mere minutes before the start time. Do you think anyone had read it?
- No Laptops or Smartphones – For the past few years, some companies have started “topless meetings,” meaning no laptops allowed. Other strategies can involve checking smartphones in a bowl at the door. Of course, asking some people to give up their smartphone is akin to asking a cowboy to give up their sidearm. However, people in the meeting should not be working on other tasks.
- Hold Everyone Accountable – Everyone in the meeting, no matter their position, should be comfortable keeping the meeting on track even if it means calling someone out. At a recent meeting, a junior analyst asked the CFO to stop checking their Blackberry. Participants should feel empowered to do this. Attendees should get a warning and then be excused from the meeting.
Be Present or Don’t Be There
Some of these rules may seem a bit strong. But, after being denied entrance to a meeting or being asked to leave one, many people will reconsider the impact they are having on their coworkers and the business at large.
Encourage your team to “be present” while in meetings. Or else, why bother being there?