Employees are spending more than one-third of their working time in meetings. With so much on our calendars, how do we make sure our meetings are still productive and meaningful?
The truth is, holding a meeting can be an invaluable tool for productivity and collaboration, but we all know what it feels like when that gets out of control. I know that when I open my calendar on Sunday night to look at the week ahead, I often see that it is entirely full. It’s crazy! My week is completely filled up with meetings before it even begins.
With many of employees — especially in tech — facing business environments that embrace “fail fast” mentality, it’s easy to turn to booking a meeting every time something comes up. But what we don’t always realize is that meeting culture is often tied to team culture. So, consider how rethinking the way a team approaches meetings might create a positive impact in other areas, ultimately improving the morale and output of a team.
Here are a few tips to consider the next time you throw a meeting on the calendar:
1. Make sure there’s an agenda, stick to it, and end the meeting when the agenda is done.
I make a point to accept only those meetings that are put on my calendar with a clear agenda and goal. Meetings without a clear agenda become “chat time” — and while I value my interaction with my colleagues — without a clear goal, we’re wasting valuable collaborative time. Agendas also allow attendees time to think through key concepts and come up with their own ideas, questions, and feedback in advance of the meeting — making it more meaningful when it happens.
2. Get rid of the hour-long meeting mindset.
Meetings should be long enough to achieve their primary goals, but not so long that conversation goes off track. I often find that hour-long meetings are scheduled because the calendar default is to block an hour. Let’s get real, a biweekly or weekly team sync on a recurring topic probably doesn’t need an hour. Some of the greatest words you’ll ever hear at the end of a meeting are, “Let’s give everyone these 10 minutes back.” Don’t feel the need to fill all the time if you’ve already accomplished what you set out to do.
3. Why are you meeting? And are all the necessary parties present?
Always ask yourself: does this meeting help us work toward common goals or a single objective? And who needs to weigh in to get it done? Just because a recurring meeting is on the calendar doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be cancelled if there’s nothing new to review during a slow week, or if the people needed to make a decision can’t attend. However, also keep in mind that valuable meetings aren’t limited to those focused on your business objectives. Large teams, particularly ones that are global, meetings are valuable for building relationships and establishing trust among a team.
4. Think about the folks on the phone.
My team is global, and that means our meetings take place virtually, as well as in person. But taking a global approach to meetings is more than setting up a virtual conference room or adding a Google Hangout link. It means scheduling meetings at times that are convenient for different regions — and that’s not always easy. For my team, someone’s always online during non-traditional business hours, and we try to rotate the pain around when possible. There can also be a barrier to speaking up in a meeting when you’re not in person. After experiencing it myself, I’m now deliberate about asking remote team members for their input before opening up the discussion to the room. This creates a space where we are less likely to talk over each other, and makes it easier for everyone to get their voices heard.
5. Be present.
And that leads to the final point — and possibly the most important one — be present. Saying “no” to that multitasking urge can be hard, and yes, sometimes I multitask too. But I make sure my team calls me out on it. Multitasking is often a symptom of a meeting that was scheduled for far longer than it needed to be (see #2). You can’t truly be engaged in two things at once. Be present to bring the most value to the table and avoid distracting those around you. If something truly urgent comes up, step out of the room or reschedule the meeting for a different time. But to sum it up, you’ll find that if you start scheduling meetings for the right length and with the right stakeholders, it’ll be easier to focus.
Improve Your Meeting Culture, Improve Your Team Productivity
At Salesforce, whenever we talk about our technology and products with customers, we’re always focused on increasing productivity and collaboration in their organizations. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves to view our meeting culture in the same way. I hope these meeting habits that I’ve picked up will help you bring a greater sense of productivity and meaning to your work — I know it did when I started doing them.
Jamie Domenici is Global Vice President of Customer Adoption and Marketing for Success Cloud at Salesforce. In this role, she is responsible for driving all marketing strategy supporting the Salesforce adoption and advisory services that help Salesforce customers become Trailblazers. Read more about her 2018 goals to ban 5 buzzwords from meetings, and check out her tips for Lightning adoption.