Do you ever feel like you are walking in treacle?

Bev CouzensStandard

*Above photo created from original by Rob Wicks, Unsplash

I’m sure we have all been subjected to workplace meetings that were either unnecessary, disengaging, disorganised or simply did not achieve any results. When this happens it can feel like we are getting nowhere and feel very “stuck” – just like walking in treacle.

Perhaps we can also admit that sometimes we were culpable of playing a part in planning, leading or being an unprepared participant at these events.

According to Forbes Magazine, middle managers spend about 35% of their time in meetings. This percentage increases to 50% with senior managers. In today’s post-pandemic economy where most of us are working from home at least part of the time, it is estimated that due to the ease of remote working, people are spending even more time in meetings.

This wastes our valuable time, contributes to negative results for businesses and can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and poor physical and mental health.

So what can we do to make the most of our time and get the results we need from meetings?

Managing our own diaries

Do we allow others to book meetings in for us which are back-to-back with no downtime in between?

Do we say yes too often?

Two simple strategies to avoid this are:

  • Make meetings shorter – book them for 25 minutes/50 minutes instead of 30 minutes or an hour.
  • When asked to get involved in something, challenge yourself – do you really have the time/capacity, or should it be someone else?

Meeting Planning

If we ask ourselves some simple questions before participating in meetings we can make them more productive:

  • What outcome are we looking to achieve?
  • What needs to be on the agenda?
  • Who needs to be present and why?
  • Who will chair the meeting?
  • Who will champion the meeting, and ensure decisions are recorded, and then implemented/followed up?
  • Cover the critical topics early in the meeting when people are fresh.

Getting organised

Whether a meeting takes place over a zoom call or in person, planning of time to make sure we bring anything required for discussion is helpful in making us all look professional as well as keeping things flowing with ease.

  • For remote working it’s a great idea to test video and audio in advance to avoid time wasted in the set up at the appointed meeting time.
  • Be punctual – it is just polite. Start and finish meetings on time and hold others accountable to avoid slippage.  10 minutes in a senior team meeting waiting for someone to join costs the organisation a significant amount! Just multiply the number of people present by the 10-minute wait and quantify the cost.  I know one CEO who decided that if people did not arrive on time he would physically lock the meeting room door, and he continued to do that until people got the message.

Engaging participants

There are some simple techniques we can use to ensure full participation and engagement.

  • Create a safe environment by letting colleagues know that all contributions are welcome. It might seem obvious but over time this can get forgotten.
  • For the introverts, seek them out in advance and tell them you would really value their thoughts on a specific topic on the meeting agenda, so they are more likely to speak up
  • Consider taking a colleague to one side if they tend to be outspoken and dominate a meeting – they may not even be aware that they do it!

Concluding and following up

Some time ago I worked with an organisation where one of the comments was “well we had a meeting and nothing has happened as a result so what is the point?” To avoid this reaction, it is crucial that meetings are followed up and decisions are seen to be implemented. This will result in a sense of accomplishment for those attending.  It will also mean that colleagues feel valued and that they are contributing to the success of the organisation.

If we use these tactics to plan and facilitate meetings, it will feel less like walking in treacle and more like the treacle is just one ingredient being used to make the cake.

Was this post helpful? Stay tuned for some tips the near future on how we can make the most of online meetings in today’s hybrid era.

Have a great week and thank you for reading.