Should you have more meetings? That question usually garners a resounding “No!“
Ask anyone if you should meet more effectively, and that would likely get a resounding, “Yes!”
Before you join the chorus of either side, consider what researchers in separate studies have found about workplace get-togethers:
- Firefighters who plan, prepare and cook meals together perform better on the job (as in, they save more lives and prevent more damage!) than crews that don’t, a Cornell University study found
- Scientists who work side-by-side, as opposed to in separate lab areas, get more work published and have a bigger impact on their area of science, author Keith Sawyer found in his research, and
- Flight crews that are familiar with each other and fatigued still perform better than well-rested flight crews who never worked together, according to research in Science Direct.
So meetings make sense. In fact, they matter.
You don’t have to meet more often – whether it’s in-person or on video. What’s important is that you meet more effectively. Here’s how:
Take a ‘3P’ approach
Keswin suggests leaders use the three “3P” approach to schedule and manage meetings.
For that, you’ll want to consider:
- Priorities. The best leaders make connecting with other people – their employees, colleagues and bosses – the priority. That means they don’t try to accomplish anything of professional importance through email, text or chat. Instead, they book their calendars with phone calls, video conferencing and physical meetings. Yes, it sounds like more meetings, but what happens is they accomplish more and build better relationships in shorter, more intimate meetings.
- Position. Leaders want to make the purpose of any meeting absolutely clear to everyone – whether it’s a one-on-one or an entire group. To meet more effectively, there should be some communication outside of the actual event. For instance, you might meet if there’s a decision to be made, a customer needs special attention or to share extraordinarily good or bad news. But share enough information ahead of time to give context to the actual event.
- Protocols. You’ll want to create guidelines for meeting and non-meeting communication. Examples: If we’re all in the same building, we meet in person. We send email between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., and don’t expect responses outside of regular business hours. We meet face-to-face with clients once a quarter.
As an HR leader, offer front-line managers a tip sheet or electronic guide for the 3P approach to meeting management.
6 tips to be productive, effective
When you decide to get together, these six tips will help you meet more effectively – whether it’s in -person or virtually:
- Start with the end in mind. While meetings are an opportunity to connect with people, they aren’t an excuse to just socialize. Set one, clear, tangible goal before you meet. Let everyone know it so you’re less likely to lose focus.
- Ban the banter. When Workhuman’s Chief Human Resource Officer Steve Pemberton was the Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens, he all but banned clichés and superfluous language from his meetings. He’d hit a bell and someone else was welcome to start speaking if a colleague said things such as, “To build on that …” “Let’s think out side the box,” or “To his point …”
- Demand data. Most meetings involve making decisions. Require anyone who plans to propose an idea to bring data to back it up. With data – not just opinions – you can make decisions and be productive faster.
- Assign roles. Whether you meet in-person or virtually, you can be more efficient if these five roles are covered: Leader, facilitator, time-keeper, note-taker and tech host. The difference between leader and facilitator is the former arranges, leads and closes the meeting. The latter keeps the discussion and decision-making on track. Your tech host makes sure everyone can see and hear in virtual meetings. And time-keeper and note-taker are self-explanatory.
- Pick a devil’s advocate. To avoid unnecessary meetings, ask a person close to the topic to determine if it’s necessary to hold it.
- Set the ending time. Meetings are important to help people connect and accomplish common goals. But they’re seldom important enough to go longer than 45 minutes. If you can’t cover everything in that time, you’re covering too much.