How to Stop Wasting Time in Meetings
If high blood pressure excites you, call a meeting with an ineffective, malfunctioning, low-performing, time wasting team.
The problem of waste is compounded because high level leaders spend most of their time in meetings.
Boost efficiency, ignite innovation, and fuel progress by improving the way teams work.
Members of dysfunctional teams:
- Dread meetings.
- Can’t wait for meetings to end.
- Return to meaningful work after meetings.
#1. Doers, not talkers.
A team of doers always outperforms a team of talkers. Avoid people who find reasons to stay the same.
#2. Big hearts, not self-serving
“Your team will never perform at the highest possible level if the members of the team don’t exhibit genuine care and concern for one another.” Mark Miller, Vice President of Leadership Development Chick-fil-A.
#3. Participants, not observers.
Google’s research indicates that members participate equally on high performance teams. No drifters. No one dominates. (NY Times article on Google’s Research)
If wasting time excites you, create dysfunctional teams.
4 factors for high performance teams:
- Go all-in based on 70% or 80% agreement. Express disagreements. Leave all reservations in the meeting. Waiting for 100% agreement means you’ll always be waiting.
- Make commitments. Successful team members declare and fulfill their commitments.
- Say what you think clearly, kindly, and respectfully. Going along to get along equals mediocrity.
- Bring up awkward issues with forward-facing curiosity. Ignoring poor performance leads to no performance. Avoid dancing around people. It’s dysfunctional.
High performance always collides with mediocrity.
Patrick Lencioni’s pyramid of “5 Dysfunctions of a Team.”
- Absence of trust
- Fear of conflict
- Lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results
How much do you want to matter? High performance teams make you matter more.
What causes teams to function poorly?
What factors contribute to the success of high performance teams?
How to stop wasting time in meetings – simple – stop having meetings. No kidding, ask your self why you have meetings. If you have meetings that do not result in making at least one decision, then you are wasting your time and everyone in the meetings time.
Thanks Jim. Don’t you just love simplicity. As I read your comment, I thought about being sure that the meeting ends when the work is done, even if it’s been 30 minutes.
If it were only that easy. I have attended too many meetings in my career that were the antithesis of getting anything done. So nice being retired and no longer having to attend meetings.
Congratulations on retirement!
BTW, I thought of a question I ask some times. “Is there any reason we can’t make a decision right now?” This has moved things forward a few times. It prevents unnecessarily long discussions.
It’s been a way for lazy leaders to use up the hours of the day for as long as I can remember. The offenders usually lose big in their careers after a while- they’ve accomplished nothing.
I agree that wasting time in meetings can be frustrating and it is important to always take a critical look at agenda items. My thoughts seem to be a bit against the grain but I do think that there are benefits to meetings aside from decision making. I think that meetings can represent an opportunity for teams to come together-to get and give feedback, plan and coordinate work, set goals and objectives and identify problems. I think if you are only meeting on decision making items, it is a missed opportunity.
Meetings should be for making decisions and only — occasionally — for giving information. My five rules for meetings:
1. Only have a meeting when you need to make a decision.
2. Only invite those persons who need to help make the decision.
3. Do not invite anyone who doesn’t need to be there (and doesn’t care).
4. Start on time, end on time (and do not go back to repeat for late-comers). Shorter durations force more concise decision-making.
5. Have an agenda and background info out at least 5 days prior to the meeting – No Agenda, no meeting (see rule #1)
Rule number one brings real clarity. Do we have a decision to make? No decision – no meeting.
Rule #3 really speaks to me as well. When you see someone disengage, speak to them after the meeting. If they don’t care, they shouldn’t be there. They just drain energy.
How would you translate this into a sports setting?
I’m thinking team-meetings before or after a game for example.
In a setting where you have 20-30 players there is many different types of people and you risk that there are many hidden agendas floating around in the room. Everything from players that want to play more, to players that are doing everything they can to get you fired.
Would you say that the same rules still apply or are there other considerations in play?
Thanks Marcus. What a great question.
My first thought is how might you set up the same agenda for your before and after meetings?
What questions or agenda items best fulfill the purpose of the before meeting. Same for after the game. Use them every time. Predictability creates an environment for improvement.
In large groups, it might be useful to break into small groups to work through a question or topic. After small group discussions, the small groups report back to the entire team. This creates opportunities for people to talk with each other.
I wonder, if you decide to break the team into small groups for the meeting, how you might rotate the same questions or topics around the small groups during different meetings.
How might you design team meetings that have a strong forward-facing orientation? A focus on the past is fertile ground for making others look bad.
Finally, running successful meetings is helpful, but by itself, won’t resolve disloyalty, competition that is focused on making someone look bad, rather than competition that focuses on bringing out our personal best.
In a broader context, how might you practice kind candor, courageous transparency when it comes to your intentions, and forward facing curiosity. “How do we work together to achieve our shared vision?”
This comment is a quick brain dump. Sadly, I don’t know enough about your situation to offer anything other than broad suggestions. Best to you
Thank you for the answer Dan!
It’s interesting to get a perspective from someone outside the sport. I agree with standardizing the meetings so that you make it predictable (and thus safe) for the players, good idea. Also that there should always a forward-facing orientation in all communication with the players, so true!
The most fascinating part of your answer was the bit about small group meeting. In my sport (soccer) this is usually something that is only done before season preparation, evaluation of the season or when there is some sort of crisis. However, I’ve been thinking lately, and please tell me if you disagree, that one should try to build a closer bond between a certain number of players (that work together on the pitch) and an assistant coach. That would enable the small group meetings to become a natural part and might enable a higher level of communication within the team. What do you think about this idea?
Also I totally agree that there is more than the meeting in itself that needs to be in order if you want to keep everyone happy. Would you say that a clear common vision, being truthful and honest with players is a good starting point to keep the group happy?