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Meetings are essential for enabling collaboration, creativity, and innovation. They often foster relationships and ensure proper information exchange. They provide real benefits.

This is what meetings are actually supposed to mean. But in reality, most employees define meetings to be painfully exhausting and arduous. Such opinions are supported by research showing that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s. An abundance of meetings can also have certain negative effects on an organization.• Meetings reduce the time for individual work which is equally essential for creativity and efficiency. As a consequence, people tend to come to work early, stay late, or use weekends for quiet time to concentrate.

• Dysfunctional meeting behaviours can be associated with lower levels of market share, innovation, and employment stability.
• Badly run meetings limit communication and collaboration because happiness at work takes a hit too.
Fortunately, such bad outcomes can be avoided by changing the way your team and your organization approaches meetings. With a structured approach to analysing and changing meeting patterns throughout the team or unit, significant improvements can be made. In this article, a five-step process for escaping the meeting trap by working together is described.

1. Collect data from each person.
To get a clearer view of how meetings are affecting your group, use surveys or interviews to gather data and impressions from every individual. That will help you gauge the full extent of the problem.

2. Interpret the data together.
Next, it’s critical to come together as a team or a unit to digest everyone’s feedback and analyse what is working and what is not. This must be an open, non-judgmental discussion of the survey or interview findings. Neutral facilitators can help keep the conversation constructive.
3. Agree on a collective, personally relevant goal.
Personally benefiting from the group’s initiative is a great motivator. For example, designating a certain amount of time each week for people to focus on independent work—whether in the office or at home. Giving employees such flexibility and freedom can provide necessary relief in their schedules, along with an incentive to make the arrangement work. The additional “white space” in everyone’s calendar increases individual productivity.

4. Set milestones and monitor progress.
As with any change effort, it is important that concrete and measurable progress be assessed and discussed along the way. Small, tangible wins provide something for people to celebrate, and small losses provide opportunities for learning and correction.
5. Regularly debrief as a group.

It is critical to regularly and openly take stock of how people feel about the meetings they attend and about their work process more generally. Frustration, resentment, and even hopelessness are signals that people are falling back into bad patterns. Moreover, changing protocols and behaviours takes time, and sustaining momentum requires consistent attention and contact.
Meetings do not have to be a trap, they can be a conduit for change. A process such as this can improve communication, and integration of the team’s work, job satisfaction and work/life balance. After all, better meetings are directly proportional to better work lives.

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