We spend 62 hours per month in meetings

According to recent research by Atlassian, we spend on average 62 hours in meetings per month and consider half of these as wasted time. This means that your 31 least productive hours each month are most likely spent in meetings.

So we’ve all probably tried to do something about this… have an agenda, get someone to chair the meeting, set some basic rules etc. but let’s face it, most meetings are dire.

We regularly get asked to facilitate meetings. All right, these are usually “significant” one-off meetings and not the weekly production or sales meetings where most time can be wasted. However, the same principles we apply to these “big” meetings can be applied to your regular meetings to make them more productive:

1. Filter out the stuff that can be done elsewhere

You are together for a reason; to do what you can only do together. Meetings should be about synergy. Don’t waste this precious time reading out minutes or going through reports that could have been read beforehand. Eliminate routines that get in the way of interaction.

2. Be clear on what you want to achieve

All meetings, no matter how routine, should have clear objectives… “what do we want those who attend to be able to do, think or feel afterwards”. If this is unclear, consider whether the meeting is an unproductive habit or a genuine necessity.

3. Have a process for making decisions

Not all decisions can be democratic… we just don’t have time. Sometimes it is legitimate to make a decision unilaterally. According to Peter Senge there are five decision-making strategies: telling, selling, testing, consulting, and co-creating (with the level of involvement and time taken rising as you move through these stages). Being clear on which of these decision-making modes you are in at different stages of your meeting can save time and avoid confusion.

4. Focus on discussion rather than debate or download

Meetings are an opportunity to discuss important decisions and to gain alignment. Don’t overlook this or worse still, squeeze out time for useful discussion with debate that goes nowhere or endless one-way downloading of information.

5. Use a facilitator

I’m not suggesting that you should bring a professional facilitator in for all of you regular routine meetings, but what is it that a good facilitator does? As well as helping manage and organise all of points 1-4 above they serve two other important roles:

  • They stay out of the content and focus on the meeting process. This allows everyone in the meeting to productively get on with the business in hand and not have to worry about“flying the plane” at the same time.
  • They help make sure everyone contributes. Having someone keeping an eye on energy and focus ensures that you get everyone involved and not just those with the loudest voices.

Internal facilitation skills

You can use an internal facilitator to help you to do this. Learning to be an effective internal facilitator is a great transferable skill for any manager and leader. I worked in a large FMCG manufacturer who used the development of facilitation skills as a core element of their leadership development programme.

If you would like to find out how we can train your team members to be excellent internal facilitators then please get in touch. Also you can sign up for tips and ideas for improving your meetings and making them more productive.

Whatever you decide to do, invest some time in converting your (and your colleagues) 31 least productive hours each month into your most productive. Imagine how much extra work you will get done!