Getting more out of meetings@work

November 29, 2015

How many times you come out a meeting at your workplace feeling frustrated? Given the context, reasons for frustrations may be different. An ex-colleague of mine used to show his disappointment by calling them NATO — No Action, Talk Only — meetings. I wonder if that is what that made humour columnist Dave Barry to say, “ If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be meetings.”

We need not agree with Dave Barry but we should ponder over the point he made about what goes into meetings and what comes out of them. Only If outcomes are good, inputs and process can be justified.

Meetings are an essential part of the work processes. They provide a forum for discussion, sharing of different ideas, facilitating decisions and ensuring follow up.

Imagine the impact if we could make our meetings at work more effective! Looking into the reasons that hamper the outcome of meetings, I would propose the following points:

  1. Clarity on objective: It sounds obvious but it is not. Objective(s) are not always clearly defined. People spend more time on planning the agenda, little on planning the objective(s). We cannot steer the meeting in the right direction if we are not clear on the objective.
  2. Lack of prioritization: We often discuss a large number of issues, or get into nitty-gritty which can be best discussed in smaller groups. Depending upon the objective and time available, we need to prioritize.
  3. Managing talkative participants: Some people are glib talkers. They have a point of view always. They take most of the time. This affects participation of others who may also have an important contribution to make but do not get an opportunity.

Meetings can be a way to keep employees excited, committed to the purpose, and motivated. Mangers have to take this responsibility.

I would conclude a suggestion: Look at some of the meetings you planned and conducted in past months and ask yourself:

  • Was I clear about the objective and steered the discussion towards it?
  • Did I prioritize issues? Or some important issues could not be covered?
  • Did I manage the time well?
  • Do I know the talkative people in my team and manage them well?
  • Do I allow for ‘quieter’ and even ‘dissenting’ voices to be heard?