There is no doubt that modern leadership is challenging. As the world grapples with late-cycle economics, and reels from the impacts of a global pandemic, the need for effective leadership has never been greater - at least in recent history.
Seeing that leaders are faced with the challenges and opportunities of the present situation, decisions about companies’ futures need to be taken. As such, there is the chance to review, evaluate, and take stock more generally, which is a vital step in effective decision-making.
As a part of this period of reflection, looking at business processes, assessing costs, and optimising ways of working will be front of mind. But for some peculiar reason, meetings often fall by the wayside when efficiencies are being evaluated. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, the annual cost of unproductive meetings is reported to be $30 billion in the US alone, and other studies estimate this to be much higher.1 This is ironic, as there have never been more leadership tools available to support effective meetings.
In the modern day, organisations have the opportunity to enhance their meetings by adopting new technology, and indeed, using new systems is one component of the solution to bad meetings. But with new tools must also come new ways of thinking. Ultimately, success will be determined by whether leaders change their ways of thinking, affect deep-rooted change, and embrace the new technology to its full potential. If we consider the organisation as a boat, and leaders as the captain, then meetings should be thought of as the rudder which allows swift changes in direction, keeping the vessel on course.
This article aims to provide leaders with the steps they should follow to successfully transition to digital ways of working, use digital solutions, and make better use of their primary leadership tool: meetings.
As working practices shift, meld, and evolve, one thing is clear: Remote working is here to stay, and virtual meetings will only grow in significance as the world of business becomes increasingly distributed.
Now, this presents a number of challenges for leaders. Companies are being forced to adapt to modern ways of working, whether they like it or not, and leaders are required to keep up to date with the growing number of digital tools. Think of this process as maintaining the rigging of the boat, ensuring that the sails function properly, and the deck is waxed.
Video conferencing tools
Perhaps the most familiar component of the ecosystem of online meeting tools is video conferencing. For some time we have been accustomed to holding meetings with people who are in a different geographical location through providers such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype for Business.
These are powerful agents of the modern workplace, as the increasingly distributed nature of work relies on these systems to facilitate the intersection between teams through meetings.
Document production and collaboration tools
Gone are the days when printing documents and marking them up physically was commonplace. In the modern workplace we rely heavily on digitised documents, and this is a core focus of digital transformation more generally.
Tools such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365 allow teams to collaborate on document production, no matter where they are in the world. This facilitates version control, as well as asynchronous collaboration - which is vital for effective meetings, and working broadly. Whether this is through a written document, a presentation, or managing spreadsheets of data, these tools are vital to our everyday ways of working.
The shift to remote working has happened at different rates across industries and geographies. Silicon Valley technology companies have long been accustomed to parts of their team working remotely, and have been trailblazers for tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts.
These tools enable teams to communicate openly in forums, and directly through instant messages, as well as providing video conferencing functionality that is often best for one-to-one conversations or smaller groups. These tools are pivotal in fostering a company culture in times of remote working, and also allow for effective communication across geographies and timezones.
Meeting management tools
Whilst they are often a source of frustration and inefficiency, meetings are powerful leadership tools an organisation has at its disposal. For this reason, the efficiency and productivity of meetings should be focussed on, rather than overlooked. When run correctly, meetings have the potential to bring tremendous value to an organisation, and meeting management tools play a key role here. These are the same as sharpening the rudder of your boat, enabling it to change course more swiftly, and ultimately win the race.
Meeting management tools, such as Sherpany, help to structure the entire meeting process, guiding stakeholders seamlessly through the pre-meeting, in-meeting, and post-meeting phases. This in turn ensures that everything from preparing the meeting agenda to distributing the meeting minutes is managed in a way that creates value and minimises friction.
Meetings are a company’s steering force, and therefore are vital to knowledge sharing, decision-making, and collaboration. As our world becomes increasingly distributed and connected simultaneously, the need for productive meetings is only heightened.
Meetings are all-too-often an organisational blindspot, and are omitted from discussions around efficiency and productivity in ways that other business processes are not. This needs to change, and one of the biggest steps on this journey is selecting management tools that support a company’s ability to hold productive meetings, starting with its leadership teams.
Therefore, meeting management tools should feature atop the list of digital tools that your leaders choose to implement, ensuring that your company’s primary leadership instrument is as sharp as it can possibly be.
If you would like to learn more about how Sherpany is helping more than 7,000 leaders to improve their meetings, please get in touch.
1. Why your meetings stink - and what to do about it, Steven Rogelberg, HBR, 2019.