One of the things I like about my job is the autonomy. For the most part, I’m left to my own devices, which means I can get on with my work with very few interruptions.
But several of my friends aren’t so lucky. They lament the number of meetings they have to attend (often back to back), labelling them a huge time-waster.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve participated in some amazing brainstorming sessions with co-workers, past and present.
But I’ve also sat through my fair share of dead-end meetings, where everyone is bored, distracted, or resentful of the fact that they have to attend in the first place.
So, how do you stop that from happening? I’ll hand you over to Mark Ford, who has some ideas.
Making Meetings Great Again: Bringing a Business Mindset to Political Meetings
After his election, and before becoming the 45th US president, Donald Trump managed to upset some folks when he stopped attending the traditional daily national security intelligence briefings.
When asked why he refused to participate in such an obviously important practice, he explained that 80–100% of each briefing repeated the information of prior reports.
‘I’m a smart guy,’ he explained to the sceptical reporters. Hearing the same information day after day wasn’t helpful, he said. Quite the contrary, he suggested; it was a waste of his valuable time.
‘If new information comes in,’ he added, ‘I’m available 24/7, on a moment’s notice.’
This behaviour is a direct extension of one of Trump’s defining qualities: He is not a politician; he’s a businessman. Since business is all about maximising gains and cutting losses, Trump views these repetitive briefings as a waste of time and resources.
Whether or not electing a president with this business-savvy mindset will pay off for America remains to be seen. But there is something important to be learned from President Trump’s intolerance of unproductive meetings.
For anyone in the world of business — whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur — it’s important to see the world through a similar lens. This is nowhere more true than when you’re dealing with meetings.
Meetings are rarely well run. Inefficient meetings are a waste of time. Wasted time is money lost.
The less time that is wasted, the more time there is to be spent on important but non-urgent activities.
With new startups, scheduled meetings are rarely needed. When a group needs to have a conversation or make a decision, it tends to happen organically. Any new decision quickly and naturally makes its way to the rest of the group. However, as businesses begin to grow, so does the unavoidable necessity for formal, planned-in-advance meetings.
In Ready, Fire, Aim, I explained the importance of managing your business while keeping the dangers of bottlenecks at bay. Bottlenecks are people or procedures that slow things down.
All bottlenecks are bad for business, and they should all be eliminated. Otherwise, they can creep in and start costing a business both money and time.
Luckily, most bottlenecks can be fixed by your intervention.
Like Trump, it’s important to ensure that no time is wasted on unnecessary or repetitive material. To make sure your meetings are deliberate, organised and productive, follow these three rules:
- Schedule no more meetings than what is absolutely necessary.
- Ensure the purpose of each meeting is clear and vital.
- Communicate in a way that is streamlined, to the point, and understood by the entire room — so that all meetings require as little repetition as possible.
If you’re a manager, you have the financial power to approve of policies that cut down on the number of meetings. You also have the leadership power to demand that your teams work together and come up with creative solutions on their own, without needing to meet.
The good thing about bottlenecks is that you usually hear about them pretty quickly. Frustrated employees will find a way to let you know what’s going on. If you are smart, you will notice that meetings are cutting into people’s productive hours.
But there is one kind of bottleneck you may not notice, because everyone’s afraid to tell you or because everyone is so accustomed to it. That bottleneck is you.
If you’re calling endless meetings — or, if you’re an employee, you’re constantly requesting one-on-one feedback from your boss — you might be responsible for creating a serious bottleneck in your business.
Should this be the case, one of the best things you can do is to let up on the reins a bit. In other words: Let go and let people figure it out on their own!
Trump recognised the absence of these principles in his security briefings, and so he did not hesitate to fix that.
In the world of business, there is no sense in scheduling a meeting when no one has any vital information to communicate. If your meetings carry meaning, your employees will have more respect for them when they occur.
Whatever you do, don’t accept the argument that bottlenecks can’t be fixed — especially when it comes to meetings.
Thanks, Mark. I guess I do have something in common with President Trump after all — we both loathe pointless, unproductive meetings!
Some great insights there for entrepreneurs and employees alike. The next time you schedule or attend a meeting, make it count.
Director, Wealth Builders Club Australia
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