When CareerBuilder recently surveyed employers as to the biggest productivity killers in the workplace, nearly one in four respondents (24 percent) cited meetings. (Cell phones/texting ranked first, in case you’re wondering.) Useless meetings can take an especially harsh toll on small businesses, where people are already wearing many hats and struggling to make every minute count. Recognizing that time and effort could be better spent on other matters, 17 percent of employers surveyed said they’ve taken action to limit meetings. While this is a great first step, leaders need to focus on getting the most possible out of the meetings they do hold. The following tips can help:
Limit attendance. Before scheduling, ask yourself who really needs to be at the meeting. Few things frustrate busy workers more than feeling like a chair warmer during a discussion that lacks relevancy to their job. Think of it this way: Five people in a one-hour meeting translates into five work-hours unavailable for other business-growing activities. Gaining back just one or two of those hours can mean a great deal to a small team.
Define the purpose. Finish the statement “The purpose of this meeting is…” If you find yourself struggling to complete the sentence, you probably don’t need one. You can even perform this litmus test before regularly scheduled weekly meetings to judge whether they’re actually a good use of time or simply a sacred cow. Prior to any meeting, everyone invited should receive a short summary of the objectives, an agenda, and pertinent background information. This allows attendees to come in focused and prepared to contribute. Worried that someone (including you) might stray off track? Write the meeting’s purpose on the white board in the room, and let attendees know they can point politely to it any time topics veer off track.
Be conscious of time. Want to minimize tardiness? Be there and ready to go yourself. This shows that you respect everyone’s time and expect others to do the same. Stick to the stated length of the meeting time, as well. Doing so enables team members to correctly formulate their schedule. Going over time could keep workers from fulfilling commitments to customers – something small businesses definitely cannot afford. Still having difficulty keeping meetings from running over? Some leaders swear that requiring everyone to stand the whole time works wonders.
Consider alternatives. Finally, resist making group meetings your default means of communication. Items such as status reports may be just as effective presented via email. Likewise, use the size of your staff to your advantage. While a manager at a large company may not be able to do daily check-ins with each employee, small business leaders oftentimes can forgo group meetings in favor of short, efficient one-on-ones.