Work Meetings: Be more selective with your attendance…

Some years ago, the Badger established an annual awards evening to celebrate the work of his IT services employer’s delivery and technical people. It proved to be a great success, and it became a much-anticipated annual event in the company’s calendar before ultimately falling victim to a cost cutting programme. The evening events produced many memorable moments. One of these was the Chief Executive’s opening sentence when giving a few words of thanks at the end of one of the evenings. The sentence was ‘Tonight it’s a pleasure to be surrounded by people that actually do things when I’m normally surrounded by people who talk about doing things.’

The Badger was reminded of this a few days ago when there was some media interest in research by Malmo University about work meetings. Apparently the number of pointless or ineffective work meetings is on the rise and meetings are often more about therapy than productivity. One of the reasons for this seems to be that organisations increasingly have more people that talk about doing things and less people that actually do things! The former – often rising numbers of consultants, advisors, strategists or variants thereof – are apparently vague about their role or what to do which spawns more, mostly ineffective, meetings that impinge on an organisation’s productivity.

The Badger doubts this is a surprise. It’s certainly been the Badger’s experience that the number of work meetings and the number of participants has proliferated in recent years. Focused meetings with the right attendees are, of course, necessary for any organisation to function smoothly but many attendees are often there because they think they should be, or they might miss something by being absent, and not because they need to be. Few people can claim they haven’t either looked at their emails or browsed the internet with their smartphones during a meeting, or worked on something else with the phone on mute when on a conference call! That’s hardly a good indicator that it’s an effective meeting and a good use of your time.

If you’re a doer it’s almost certain that you’re frustrated by attending other people’s meetings just in case ‘something comes up’. So, ask yourself the following. How many meetings did you attend last week? In how many of these did you actually say something useful? In how many of these did you either use your smartphone, or do something else while the meeting was in progress? How many of the meetings made no difference to your normal work? Look at the resultant numbers and really question if you or your organisation got any real value from your attendance.

So, be brave. Discipline yourself to do less meetings! Your organisation needs doers to do productive things rather than be frustrated followers of the herd. Oh, and one final thing. If you’re reading this while you’re in a meeting then tell yourself off…you should be doing something more productive.

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