Career Center: Run better meetings. Please
What words come to mind when you hear the word meetings? For many, it's boring or waste of time.
A study by MCI found that most professionals believe that over 50 percent of meeting time is wasted. More than 90 percent admit to daydreaming in meetings, 73 percent have brought other work, and 39 percent have fallen asleep.
You might think, therefore, that bosses were cutting down on meetings. Guess again. In the survey, 46 percent said they attended more meetings than a year ago.
Well, if meetings are inevitable, at least they should be as useful as possible. To that end, see how you do on this meetings effectiveness test. Much of the content is derived from articles on www.effectivemeetings.com.
The Meetings Effectiveness Test
True or False:
1. A good reason to call a meeting is for people to give progress reports.
Answer: False. That's better done via E-mail.
2. Each meeting agenda should list the topics to be discussedfor example, the company pay structure.
False. Each meeting's agenda item should list the expected outcomefor example, an agreement on a new pay structure. That reduces the risk that the meeting will be all jawboning and no outcome.
3. In advance, the leader should send participants the agenda, including the time allocated to each item.
True. Knowing the allocated time encourages people to be time effective in their comments.
4. Often, the leader should assign participants something to prepare for the meeting. For example, for problem-solving meetings, have the group read the necessary background information and then think of one possible solution to the problem.
True. That will make the meeting more significant for each member.
5. It's often wisest to hold your meetings first thing in the morning.
False. That's the worst time. That's when people are freshest and should be working on activities requiring maximum performance. Meetings are rarely that activity. Scheduling your meeting just before lunch or day's end also encourages people to stay within the time limitthey want to get out.
6. If there's an issue you plan to argue for in a meeting, try to sit next to your allies, or situate yourself so that you have eye contact with them. And seat your opponents apart from one another.
True. Divide and conquer.
7. If some participants are late, wait five minutes before starting so you avoid having to go over material again.
False. Meetings should start on time so as not to punish the punctual. In future meetings, tardy types will be more likely to show up on time. Starting on time also shows you value participants' time.
8. The leader's introductory remarks outside the agenda items should last only a minute or two.
9. Encourage people to air their opinions, even if controversial.
True. On important contentious issues, consider bringing in an outside facilitator.
10. Praise in public; criticize in private.
11. Even if an attendee is long-winded, the leader should rarely interrupt.
False. Long-winded or tangential statements are a major reason people hate meetings. You'll be appreciated for tactfully cutting them off.
12. During meetings, it's often wise to have an activity that divides the attendees into groups of two or three.
True. That maximizes participation and alertness.
13. If the participants are starting to look bored, the chair should propose a 10-minute break.
False. Unless you've already been going for longer than 45 minutes, it's wiser to pick up the pace by standing up and speaking louder and more quickly to arouse the participants. Also choose lively participants to address the meeting.
14. Document the decisions made by the group, especially the person assigned to an action item and the due date.
15. At the end of each meeting, review its effectiveness and suggest improvements for the next meeting.
At Intel, every new employee, from the most junior production worker to the highest-ranking executive, is required to take the company's course on effective meetings. For years, the course was taught by CEO Andy Grove, who believed that good meetings were so important that it was worth his time to train all employees. If it was worth Andy Grove's time to encourage good meetings, every other manager should spend some time learning how.