Leaders: It’s time to take control — and hold better meetings
In this article, we help leaders to take control of their meetings, with practical tips and ready-to-implement ideas.
Meetings are a fundamental part of every organisation's workflow, allowing leaders to gather their team members and discuss important matters. However, poorly planned and unproductive meetings can lead to frustration, disengagement, and wasted time. As a result, it's crucial for leaders to take control of their meetings and ensure they are well-structured, efficient, and result-driven.
In this article, we will explore the costs of ineffective meetings, the common challenges leaders face, and provide practical tips you can implement to run better meetings and maximise productivity. Whether you're a seasoned leader or a relatively new manager, the insights shared here will help you transform your meetings into meaningful and impactful exchanges.
We also include a decision tree, to help you understand whether you are in control of your meetings — or not.
The dilemma: Bad meetings are costly
The direct costs of unproductive meetings
Meetings can be expensive, both in terms of time and money. According to a study by Doodle, the cost of unproductive meetings in the US is estimated to be $399 billion per year.1 This includes the time spent preparing for meetings, the time spent in meetings, and the time spent following up after meetings. The study also found that the average employee spends 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings.
Unproductive meetings can also have a negative impact on employee morale. When employees feel that their time is being wasted, they can become disengaged and less motivated. This can lead to decreased productivity and even higher turnover rates.
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The opportunity costs of poor meetings
An opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative that is foregone when choosing one option over another. In the context of unproductive meetings, there are several opportunity costs that leaders need to consider. Here are some of the most significant opportunity costs associated with unproductive meetings:
Time is a precious resource that cannot be regained once it is lost. Unproductive meetings waste time that could have been spent on other tasks, such as completing projects, brainstorming new ideas, or engaging in professional development. The time spent in unproductive meetings also creates a backlog of work that needs to be caught up on, causing further delays and inefficiencies.
Time is money, and unproductive meetings can be a significant drain on a company's resources. Meetings require not only the time of the attendees but also the cost of facilities, equipment, and materials. When meetings are unproductive, the money spent on these resources is wasted and could have been invested in more productive areas of the business.
What’s more, meetings — and especially those involving leadership — should deliver a clear return on investment. After all, when else would a company spend a significant proportion of its budget without measuring the impact? A first step here is to understand the amount that your organisation is investing into meetings. A second step is then to develop a means of evaluating the ROI. If this isn’t being achieved through your meetings, then changes need to be made — urgently.
Unproductive meetings can have a negative impact on the morale of the team. When employees feel that their time is being wasted in unproductive meetings, they may become demotivated and disengaged. This can lead to lower productivity, higher turnover rates, and a negative work culture.
Meetings are an opportunity for teams to brainstorm new ideas and solutions to problems. When meetings are unproductive, opportunities for innovation are lost. This can result in missed opportunities for growth and development, and a lack of innovation can put a business at a disadvantage compared to its competitors.
5. Customer satisfaction
Unproductive meetings can have a ripple effect on customer satisfaction. When employees are stuck in unproductive meetings, they may not have the time or energy to provide excellent customer service. This can lead to dissatisfied customers and lost business.
The opportunity costs associated with unproductive meetings are significant and can have a lasting impact on a business. Leaders need to prioritise effective communication and ensure that meetings are well-planned, organised, and productive.
The solution: Take control of your meetings
As a leader, it's your responsibility to ensure that your team is working efficiently and effectively. Meetings can play a crucial role in achieving this, but only if they are well-managed. By taking control of your meetings, you can:
- Improve productivity: Well-managed meetings can help your team stay focused and on-task, which can lead to increased productivity.
- Save time: By making sure that your meetings are well-organised and have clear objectives, you can reduce the amount of time that is wasted in unproductive meetings.
- Boost morale: When employees feel that their time is being used effectively, they are more likely to feel engaged and motivated.
- Build trust: By being an effective meeting leader, you can build trust with your team and show that you value their time and input.
- Foster collaboration: Meetings can be a great way to foster collaboration and brainstorm new ideas. By taking control of your meetings, you can create an environment where your team feels comfortable sharing their ideas and working together.
Practical tips for better meetings
So, how can you take control of your meetings and ensure that they are productive and efficient? The answer spans before, during, and after meetings. Here are some practical solutions to help ensuring you take control of your meetings:
Set clear objectives
Before scheduling a meeting, make sure that you have a clear objective in mind. What do you want to achieve? What topics need to be discussed? By setting clear objectives, you can ensure that your meeting stays on track and is focused on achieving specific goals.
Prepare an agenda
Once you have set your objectives, prepare a meeting agenda that outlines the topics that will be discussed and the amount of time that will be spent on each topic. Distribute the agenda to all attendees before the meeting so that everyone knows what to expect.
Invite only necessary attendees
Don't invite people to your meeting just for the sake of it. Make sure that everyone who attends has a clear reason for being there and can contribute to the discussion. Ensuring that your meeting doesn’t have passengers is vital, as not only does it frustrate those who don’t need to be there, but it also compromises the quality of the meeting overall. Make sure that you choose participants with purpose, and ensure that they all have a role to play in your meetings.
Collaborate and prepare asynchronously
Asynchronous collaboration is a great way to drive engagement before the meeting has even begun. By defining a clear agenda, and establishing open channels of communication, you enable your participants to begin contributing, and it could be that agenda items are closed before the meeting even takes place.
Start and end on time
Respect your attendees' time by starting and ending your meetings on time. If you consistently run over time, attendees may become frustrated and disengaged.
Make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute to the discussion. Encourage attendees to share their thoughts and ideas, and make sure that everyone feels heard.
Keep conversations on track
If the conversation veers off-topic, gently steer it back to the agenda items. Don't be afraid to table certain topics for a later discussion if they are not relevant to the current meeting.
Take meeting minutes
Taking meeting minutes is a vital step in retaining control over your meeting — and ensuring that the maximum value is created from it. Meeting minutes should broadly correspond with your meeting agenda, and should capture the key points from any discussions, as well as the outcomes of any decisions. Finally, your meeting minutes should provide a clear outline of the follow-up tasks, who is responsible for achieving them, and by when. Utilising a meeting minutes template is recommended.
After the meeting, follow up with attendees to ensure that everyone is clear on what needs to be done — and by when. Meeting minutes should be circulated to all participants in a timely manner, and should enable everyone to move from discussion to action. In your follow-up, it is important to communicate the outcome of any votes or decisions, along with the action items — the latter of which should be detailed, including who is responsible and what the deadlines are.
Collect meeting feedback
In order to be fully in control of your meetings, it is vital to continuously improve them. The most effective way of doing this is to collect feedback after each meeting — in an anonymised, systematic, and structured way. This will enable you to understand whether you are performing well as a meeting leader, or whether there is room for improvement.
Better meetings: It’s time to take control
Taking control of meetings is an important responsibility of leaders to ensure productivity, efficiency, and engagement of the team. To help you get started, here is a decision tree that will help you to take control of your meetings:
1 "The State of Meetings 2019", Doodle, 2019.