Whether you work as an employee in a large, medium or small organization or run your own business, time is your most valuable resource. In most organizations, many hours of the work day are spent in meetings ranging from extremely productive to a total waste of time. Today’s workplaces encourage colleagues to be creative, collaborative and communicative and even with all of the tools and technology available, people still cling tightly to the notion that meetings are one of the best ways to accomplish this. Flying solo or being a lone ranger has no place in today’s organizations. Even when faced with an avalanche of texts, e-mails and presentations, booking back to back meetings for hours on end seems to be the order of the day. Whether you are at the executive or entry levels, the challenge facing anyone working in a business or organization is when to get all of the work done and commitments completed as a result of and in addition to these meetings.
How many times have you shown up to attend a meeting or participate in a conference call that has been cancelled at the last minute due to a lack of attendance or the emergence of an unexpected development? How many times have you been invited to attend a meeting and wondered why you were extended an invitation? How many times have you attended a meeting only to sit and realize that your presence was not required? How many hours a week do you waste in meetings where people arrive late, come unprepared, act inattentive and disruptive and refuse to commit to take action to move things forward? If you want to have positive, proactive, productive and progressive work days for you, your clients/customers, team members and colleagues, decide to only schedule a meeting when nothing is competing.
What are some reasons that you should schedule a meeting and what are some reasons that you should not schedule a meeting? You should schedule a meeting to bring together the most competent, committed, collaborative and communicative individuals to pinpoint current or potential problems and develop solutions; identify, analyze and resolve issues; generate and share ideas as well as communicate urgent, important, relevant, sensitive and confidential information. Meetings should also afford the opportunity to define next steps, develop the plan and select the right people to make it happen efficiently and effectively and, finally, to acknowledge individuals who have demonstrated hard work, leadership and a commitment to excellence. You should not schedule a meeting because you are feeling lonely, isolated, unhappy, unimportant, invisible, unproductive and unmotivated.
Here are six steps that you can do to ensure that you schedule a meeting when nothing is competing. Step One is to take the time to clearly describe the planned purpose of the meeting, list the specific subjects of the meeting and identify the desired deliverables of the meeting. Step Two is to prepare a detailed and realistic meeting agenda. This agenda should have three columns with the three T‘s: Time, Topic, Team. The Time should indicate a period of time, for example, 10:00-10:20; the Topic should specify the topic to be discussed and the Team should be the name of the team and the individual(s) from the team who will be presenting the topic. Step Three is to customize the invitation so that the individual receives it with their Time, Topic and Team highlighted in bold so that they know what they need to prepare in advance of the meeting and what will be expected from them in the meeting. Step Four is to invite only “must have” people to the meeting and avoid the temptation to invite the “nice to have” people to fill up the room. Step Five is to insist that invitees respond within two days. If you do not hear from the invitees, follow up immediately after two days have passed. When you do hear from an invitee within two days, express your gratitude for their response and for their attendance at the meeting. Please respond immediately if you are an invitee or you will forget to do so. Step Six is to bring enough apples, cookies and bottled water to meetings so that your meetings always have a high rate of attendance and attendees are motivated to arrive on time. Often, it is hunger and thirst rather than other commitments that make individuals restless and distracted in meetings. If you try these six steps and have a minute, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how doing these six steps have allowed you to successfully schedule a meeting and ensure that nothing is competing.