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Make your meetings- work or otherwise, more productive

By Nancy Nzalambi | Feb 9th 2020 | 5 min read

Addiction to meetings is something that most people are in denial about. You may not realise it yet because you do not have time to think about it. It is actually a global epidemic. A few responsibilities are handed to you and you turn into this person who races through the boardrooms and conference calls trying to catch up with the next meeting and simultaneously replying to dozens of emails. Addiction to meetings reduces your productivity big time. You may think that you are getting a lot done but in the actual sense, you may not have time to perform your role and lead the people who report to you.

So how do get over the “meeting addition epidemic”?

1. Lessen the invites you accept

Whenever you are asked to attend a meeting, ask yourself this fundamental question. “Is it a must for me to attend? Or, if you are incapacitated, would the meeting be postponed? When you realise that someone else can take your place, excuse yourself and pass it to one of your teammates. To help them out, ask for the agenda prior delegating so that you fill in your representative in in case they needed to do some research. That way, you will actually have more time on your plate to focus on other pressing matters. For follow-up purposes, ask for minutes of the meeting to keep yourself up to date.

2. Reduce non-essential meetings

You surely do not need to call a physical meeting to give updates or FYI items. Such issues can always be communicated via emails or office memos. If the meeting seems to be the most appropriate thing to do, make it leaner. Just offer only enough time for the agenda for discussion and avoid wasting time. When the message becomes redundant, you will see the room full of people on their phones.

3.  For healthy meetings, invite only participants, not spectators

Participants are those that have active roles during a meeting such as presenting, making decisions, providing feedback, sharing insights and providing solutions. Spectators only take notes just to feel part of the team. Invite only the individuals whose input contributes to the desired outcome of the meeting; without them, the meeting would be meaningless. Do not invite people who you feel they would be offended if they were not called to attend.

4. Do not play politics

Meetings are meant to make things happen, to brainstorm, not to waste time playing politics. Politicking will only turn what would be a high-yielding meeting into a mediocre one. Keep the attendees to a minimum. If you have two people playing a similar role, invite only one. This strategy avoids duplication and keeps the discussion short and to the point. If you feel you won’t add value to the meeting, do not go (unless your boss orders you to). “Saying ‘no’ is not an act of rebellion, but an effective way to focus. When you say ‘yes’ to a meeting that has no value, you are saying ‘no’ to doing something more relevant, “says Gutsavo Razetti, a change instigator in the area of organisational leadership.

5. Always conclude with actionable outcomes

By the time the meeting comes to an end, ask yourself, has the gathering accomplished the intended outcome? Is there task allocation? Who is accountable for what? Among the many great ideas, has the team selected the best one? You will only have a successful meeting when it ends with actionable outcomes and appropriate channels for follow up are made.

Why you should shut up in meetings…

1. To gain knowledge

If you are one to always offer opinions and solutions to problems while not giving others room to give their opinions, then you are stopping a great opportunity for you to learn something new and exciting. Take time to listen to people, regardless of their level of experience. Be it the CEO, receptionist or the intern, seek their opinions and insights and your cup of knowledge will overflow.

 2. Quality over quantity has more impact

While speaking to your seniors try to speak less, to them quality matters more than quantity. Let others speak, it however doesn’t mean you should be an ant on the wall. Make sure that whatever you say is of value that you won’t leave everyone with a bad taste.

 3. You realise that you may have been a ‘one-man crusade’

If what you remember while reading this is that whenever you started talking in meeting everyone agreed or gave a heavy sigh, you need to start talking less in meetings or even stop talking at all. People will many a time differ with what you bring to the table and if they don’t then they were not really paying attention. This ‘one-man crusade’ is not interesting at all.

4. Your ideas are made better

Remember when you had convenient but unproductive ideas?  It is because they were limited to always being yours. Sometimes ideas need to be built by other people. Call for a meeting, explain your idea, let others dig in and their insights will build you a stronger idea. A focus group is a great idea of getting to listen to other people and a prospect on how your ideas can be improved. After the discussion you will end up getting more and better ideas than what you first had in mind.

5. You gain a leadership tool

While people underestimate how listening is a virtue, it is a leadership tool. Apart from gaining knowledge, your focus is a sign of respect. After listening, let the information sink in, offer feedback by asking questions, avoid distractions and maintain eye contact at all times. Your bosses will believe and have confidence in you.

But not for the women…

Studies show that women don’t speak up enough in meetings, and if they do, it is only confined to their area of expertise. This doesn’t do much for their career and in fact has a negative impact on their career progression. It has also been noted that they tend to use little inflections that undermine what they are saying. These include:

1. Apologising for nearly everything. It is something that many women unconsciously do. That will say, ”I am sorry I didn’t hear what you said, could you repeat that?” or I am sorry I don’t understand, could you explain that? Cut down on the apologies and ask for what you want. Unless you have spilled a drink on someone, or bumped into them, you have nothing to apologise for.

 2. Using qualifiers before offering an opinion. These include words like: “I am no expert but….”  Or “Correct me if I am wrong but…” This tends to undermine you and your idea before you even state it.

3. Stay away from, “does that make sense?” The phrase makes you seem like you lack confidence in your ability to be understood. If anyone is confused by what you said, let them ask a question about it.

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