Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Do you REALLY need that meeting?

If you've been in business, worked in business, been around business or know someone who has, you know the deadliest thing in the business world is The Meeting.  There's nothing worse than looking at your calendar and seeing back-to-back meetings, all of which take time away from doing your job and generally accomplish nothing.

A company in Atlanta was doing over $100 million in revenue annually.  They had employees on several continents.  Their C-suite staff, including their Director of Operations, Director of Human Resources and Director of Finance, were located in the corporate office.  Under Operations, there were six regional managers, each of whom oversaw five team leaders, who had 25 employees under each; the other directors had similar hierarchies. Got the picture?

Each day, everyone, from the President to the team leaders, spent a minimum of four hours in mandatory meetings.  Most of those meetings were spent rehashing the same things discussed at several other meetings throughout the week.

You can imagine the results.  Turnover increased at all levels because there were no leaders available to lead teams, so no engagement.  Middle managers were being torn in several different directions because of being given assignments outside their normal day-to-day activities at each meeting, so their "regular" work was never touched.  Upper management was frustrated because it felt as if nothing was getting done.  Soon, their turnover rate corporate wide as over 30-percent.

This scenario is being played out every day across the country.  The Meeting, especially the Weekly Status Meeting, started out as a good idea, but is now outdated, overdone and overblown, creating havoc in the lives of everyone involved.

What's the solution?  Stop meeting.  Simple as that.  Well, maybe not that simple, but that's the bottom line.  Before you set up a meeting, request a meeting or attend a meeting, ask - "Do we REALLY need this meeting?"  Here are some meetings that can be done away with immediately:

  • Automatic Weekly Status Meetings.  Watch what happens at your next weekly status meeting.  Everyone says the same thing they said the week before and nothing changes.  Getting a team together every Monday morning (or any other day) to rehash the same things is counterproductive and demeans the team.  These weekly status meetings become a way for managers to prove to their bosses that they're on top of things and to those they manage that they're the boss.
    • Solution:  Institute other means of ensuring everyone knows what's going on - through project management software that allows team members to enter their status daily and share notes with the team.  No additional email and only those who really need to know what's going on can access the information.
  • "Everybody in the deep end of the pool" Meetings.  These meetings usually consist of bringing EVERYONE within earshot or email shot into a conference room or on a conference line to listen to information that only applies to one or two people or departments.  Those attending for whom the information has no meaning are not only bored, but they aren't able to get their normal tasks done because time is being wasted listening to irrelevant information.
    • Solution:  Only invite people to meetings who REALLY need to be there.  Meetings should not be held to CYA (cover your a*&); inviting your entire team to a meeting with your boss so you can prove you're doing your job (which you aren't if you're holding all these meetings) will only frustrate your team and make them look bad, and will make you look bad in the eyes of your team.
  • Disguised Disciplinary Meetings.  Please, PLEASE do not call a meeting with your entire team to disciple one or two employees.  Managers are sometimes reluctant to call employees into their office to deal with an issue because they "hate confrontation."  So don't be confrontational!  Just pull on your grown-up pants and deal with the situation directly.  Calling everyone on the team into a meeting just to indirectly address an issue caused by one or two demeans the entire team, and those you're trying to address won't get the point because, typically, they think they're doing ok.  The only ones who will get the point are the ones already doing well and this kind of meeting just drags them down.  
    • Solution:  Just be direct and honest with your team members.  Hate confrontation?  As mentioned - don't be confrontational!  You are the one your team and your company are looking to to make sure things are running smoothly.  If one or two people are causing an issue, deal with it.  You're doing your team no favors by pussyfooting around and avoiding dealing with it.  Feel like you're not equipped to deal with a disciplinary situation?  Ask someone in HR to be in the meeting with you.  Better yet, grab a copy of my book, "Motivating Feedback:  Getting the Most From Your Employees Without Tears," available here.
Too many meetings can kill your team's momentum faster than a brick wall.  Stop the madness, stop the meetings and grow.