My Meetings are a Waste of Time

Here’s a direct quote from one of our new consultants:

I can’t believe how many unnecessary meetings we have.  What a waste of time!

Maybe.  In fact, definitely.  But it depends on how you define “waste of time.”

Meetings can generally be divided into two categories: working, and informational.  In an effective working meeting, you’ll find brainstorming, process mapping, problem solving, and planning.  Informational meetings can include status meetings, demonstrations, or get-to-kn0w-you activities.  Both types are important for different reasons, but informational meetings tend to seem the most useless if your expectations are not set or if you approach the meeting with a negative attitude.

First: You’ll always have informational meetings, so get used to it.  Whether suffering through status meetings for a project that doesn’t impact you or spending an hour team building with the new boss, there’s no way around it.

Second: These meetings don’t have to be useless.  Here are three things you can do:

  1. Practice executive posture.  Executive presence involves many things including communication, attire, and yes, even posture.  When you mentally disengage from a meeting, you’re more likely to slouch, keep your head down, and push away from the table.  Not only is this unprofessional, it can exacerbate the problem by making you tired.  Posture, like many other things, is a learned behavior that can be practiced.  And the more you practice, the sooner it becomes automatic.
  2. Work on your reflective listening skills.  Reflective listening is very important because it demonstrates that you’re interested, builds rapport, and helps you remember what was said.  It also keeps your head in the game, and you never know what you might miss.
  3. Write up a summary of the meeting to send to your team.  A single-paragraph summary of the meeting won’t take long to write, but it’s a nice touch that helps set you apart from the crowd.  Send it to your team to keep them up-to-date, or to your manager with a list of your own ideas or thoughts.  Fifteen minutes is all you’ll need, and it’s well worth it.

If you use the time wisely, unneeded meetings can be much less painful.  You’ll never avoid them altogether, so you might as well learn to make the most of it.

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