Ask any office employee and they will tell you that one of the biggest time wasters in their week are the countless unproductive meetings they are required to attend.
“Office workers spend four hours a week in meetings on average—and they regard more than half of that time as wasted, according to a British study of 1,000 employees released last week by Opinion Matters, a London market-research company, for Epson, a maker of office printers and projectors, and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, an economic consulting firm.” (source)
As a manager, how can you make your meetings more efficient? First, you must spot the ones who are derailing your agenda:
1. The Naysayer – this person will counter every single idea with a complaint or pessimistic outlook
2. The Silent Plotter – this person will be silent in the meetings, but will be planning your demise by the water cooler, and trying to get others on board
3. Ramblers – these people monopolize the conversation, get off topic, and continue to stray from the meeting agenda if you don’t rein them in
As humans, we learn through repetition. So the key to moving away from a time wasting hour into a productive meeting is finding ways to encourage cooperative behavior out of your employees.
Naysayers should be given a chance to voice their concerns, but a good time for that is before the meeting begins. Maybe take the notorious naysayers to lunch before, or have an open session in your office prior to the meeting. This gives them an open space to air their dirty laundry. Once the meeting begins, there is only room for problem-solving - not complaining.
Silent plotters can be disarmed by calling on them directly in meetings and asking them to contribute their feedback. This has a great neutralizing effect on any plan they may have to undermine your authority.
Ramblers require a bit more creativity. One manager uses an Elmo doll in her meetings. She places the doll in the center of the table, and if at any point someone feels that the meeting is getting off topic, they pick up the Elmo doll. This way they can communicate their frustration without interrupting the speaker.
Whatever tactics you choose, you must be consistent so your employees will learn to control their disruptive behaviors.
Other ways to ensure a productive meeting:
-send out a clear agenda before the meeting that everyone must bring with them to the conference room
-have a “no devices” policy enforced so that people aren’t texting or checking email which can stall the entire process
-ask for objections prior to discussions in order to keep everyone on track and avoid interruptions
-set an ending time to the meeting and stick to it
*Another sneaky tactic some managers use is to place a conference table directly under the air conditioning vents and then turn the AC down to 50 degrees right before meetings. Efficiency soon seems to follow as people want to get out of the freezing room as soon as possible!
What tactics have you used to keep your meetings running efficiently? We’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions!