Transforming Unproductive Staff Meetings

When executed properly, staff meetings are designed to be a tool for generating new ideas, improving communication among staff members and fostering success for the organization. However, if you ask most managers and staff members, chances are they don’t see their team meetings in this light. Unfortunately, in many offices, meetings are seen as long, drawn out and generally unproductive gatherings where most team members spend more time tuned in to their phones rather than what is going on in the room around them.

Long-winded discussions, unorganized contributions and a lack of action can all come together to make meetings with the best goals and intentions suddenly fall short of their intended purposes. These unproductive meetings aren’t just a waste of time either, they are a waste of money and resources as well.

These meetings may seem like a plague to the work environment, but it doesn’t mean that they should be banished forever. There are ways that managers can turn the tables and transform unproductive meetings into far more successful and effective events. However, as many managers know conducting a productive meeting often seems much easier than it really is. Effective meeting management not only includes organizing and conducting the people in the meeting but the actual setup of the gathering as well.

The good news is, there are several strategies that managers can use in order to make certain their meetings are effective as possible and that unproductive meetings are finally a thing of the past.

Manage the Invite List

The right people are instrumental in keeping a meeting as successful and productive as possible. Some managers have a theory that inviting more people to sit in on and observe a meeting is actually better as it means there is less of a need to repeat the information discussed in the meeting to other people who may be interested in how it went.

However, a “the more the merrier” approach to meetings rarely leads to a more productive or successful event. Limit the guest list and be careful about who is invited. Only key individuals that should be at the meeting and that can actually contribute to the meeting should be in attendance. Extra people often means extra distractions so trimming down the invite list should always be a top priority.

Demand Punctuality

Managers who want a meeting to be productive and efficient should have absolutely no time for lateness. Emphasize punctuality. Don’t let those who miss the start time of a meeting attend. There is so much time wasted waiting for people to show up to meetings that it can instantly steer an entire event towards disaster. Doing this at one meeting will only set a precedent for events to come and guarantee all participants will take the start time, and the meeting itself seriously.

Make a Clear Agenda

An agenda may not seem like a revolutionary addition to a meeting structure, but it is still an important tool to use in order to banish unproductive gatherings. The right agenda includes well-defined goals that every participant is aware of. If there aren’t enough items to fill the agenda, then maybe a meeting wasn’t necessary, and an email would suffice instead.

There needs to be a purpose or a goal for the meeting as well as action steps that lead up reaching that goal. Most importantly, the steps listed on the agenda need to be followed to a tee. Having an agenda is only half the battle.

Most meetings have agendas. Unfortunately, most meetings don’t stick to those agendas once they begin. Begin the first few minutes of the meeting by stating the clear objective of the gathering and the desired outcome of the gathering, it will go a long way in keeping everyone focused and on point.

Set a Time Limit

One of the many reasons that so many meetings are dubbed as unproductive is because they are simply too long. Ultimately, the group may come out of the meeting with a few solid accomplishments, but if those accomplishments took several hours, instead of several minutes, then ultimately that meeting wasn’t as productive as it could be.

This is why setting a time limit is so important with any meeting. The ideal meeting time is actually around 15 minutes. Keep meetings short, succinct and to the point so that the whole team can get the most out of the time delegated to this gathering.

Remove Distractions

Even the best planned meetings can go awry if there are too many distractions to keep participants and meeting leaders, on task. Ban cell phone use or even ask participants to just lay their phones on the table in front of them. Yes, some attendees may need to “access their email” during the meeting, but if the meeting is kept on a short time limit, they will be fine without their email. The more distractions that are present during a gathering like this, the less that will likely get done.

With distractions in mind, do not hold meetings on Fridays or Mondays. On Mondays everyone will still be sluggish from the weekend, or tempted to discuss their weekend with others. On Fridays, everyone will be thinking about getting to the weekend instead of the work. Don’t try to push past this, just avoid dealing with issues.

Leave Participants with Assignments

When a meeting comes to a close, it doesn’t mean that the work involved is done. The most productive meetings end with the organizer assigning tasks to all in attendance and giving attendants a completion date for those tasks. Meetings should be about more than just coming up with ideas, they should be about bringing those ideas to fruition, which is why a successful meeting will always end with action steps.

Productive meetings don’t have to be an allusive goal; they can become commonplace practices in virtually any professional setting. A few ground rules, a set structure and a new way of framing the event can all go a long way in transforming long, cumbersome and unproductive meetings into effective and efficient gatherings that can truly benefit the entire organization.

Our free meeting skills eBooks can help you and your team to maximize your effectiveness in the highly visible forum of a business meeting. You can download these free eBooks for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Setting an Agenda eBook
This eBook explains how a well-written agenda will keep your meeting on track and ensure that attendees are properly prepared.
ISBN 978-1-62620-995-4 (22 Pages) PDF, Kindle & ePub

Chairing a Meeting eBook
This eBook explains how to chair each stage of the meeting to ensure that your meetings are both productive and popular.
ISBN 978-1-62620-996-1 (27 Pages) PDF, Kindle & ePub

Taking Meeting Minutes eBook
This eBook explains how to take notes during the meeting and how to turn them into professionally presented minutes.
ISBN 978-1-62620-994-7 (29 Pages) PDF, Kindle & ePub

Key Points

  • There are several strategies that you can use to make certain that your meetings are effective as possible.
  • Only invite those people who have something to contribute.
  • Make sure that the meeting starts and finishes on time.
  • An agenda includes well-defined goals that every participant is aware of.
  • Don’t let people become distracted by checking emails.
  • Successful meetings should always end with action steps.

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