When it comes to meetings, what’s truly frustrating is not the meeting itself, but the inefficiency that results in a waste of time.
For example, being pulled into a last-minute 2-hour meeting without any prior synchronization of information, only to be expected to provide constructive suggestions. If you have no input, it’s seen as not being serious or insightful. These kinds of meetings are scheduled without considering whether or not you have the time.
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When you’re invited to attend, refusal is not allowed. There’s a sense of “this meeting can’t happen without you.” Once you participate, you realize that you’re just a tool. Not only does it waste your time, but you also have to work overtime to complete your original tasks.
The initiator keeps talking endlessly, turning the meeting into a personal speech. Others can’t understand or grasp any valuable information, so they just wait for it to end. Afterwards, you’re criticized for not being actively engaged, not expressing personal opinions, and lacking a sense of participation.
The approach of “when in doubt, call a meeting” is not the problem. The key is whether or not you know the purpose of the meeting and how to conduct it correctly and efficiently.
01-Three ‘Isms’ Behind Inefficient Meetings
In my over twenty years of management experience, I have conducted numerous meetings. I have found that the reasons for inefficient meetings can be categorized into the following three situations.
The so-called professionalism is when someone constantly reminds you during meetings that they are the experts and you should listen to them. If you don’t follow their lead, they claim it’s because you lack professionalism. This issue often arises with leaders from technical backgrounds, such as technical directors.
Leaders constrained by a professional mindset tend to immerse themselves solely in their area of expertise, lacking awareness of the bigger picture and failing to establish connections with other departments. When problems arise, they tend to shift blame and refuse to admit mistakes, making communication difficult due to their stubbornness.
Every department has its own expertise. I often say that professionalism is just the basic requirement, but what’s more important is whether a department can create value for other departments.
If someone stubbornly believes that everyone else is wrong and only they are right, and they are unable to communicate and collaborate effectively with other departments, that department will eventually be eliminated.
Individuals with a self-centered mindset only consider their own department’s interests and demands during meetings, completely disregarding the company’s goals and long-term development. They may even prioritize personal interests over organizational interests.
When other departments point out issues, they immediately become angry and adopt a confrontational attitude, viewing it as an attack on their authority.
Such leaders have double standards for themselves and others, adept at exploiting loopholes in rules to benefit themselves and their departments. They oppose anything that is not in their favor. Companies are most afraid of having managers with this kind of refined self-interest.
Moreover, self-centeredness poses the biggest obstacle to cross-department communication and collaboration. It creates invisible departmental barriers, increases internal conflicts, and wastes company resources.
These self-centered leaders may appear to gain a lot, but those who only pursue their own value and disregard organizational interests are unable to create greater value.
Formalism refers to managers who only focus on superficial efforts without being results-oriented, managers who do things for show.
Meetings that are mere formalities, lacking follow-through and execution, can never yield results.
Many sales managers, for example, hold meetings right at the end of the workday, claiming it’s for summarizing and reviewing.
However, if you listen carefully, you will notice that they pay little attention even if employees’ reports are as mundane as a simple account of events. They only verbally acknowledge the issues raised by employees and the need for collaboration but firmly refuse to take action.
These formalistic meetings are the most detested. They not only waste time and serve no purpose but also exhaust employees, negatively impacting work efficiency.
02-“The Seven Steps to Conducting Effective Meetings”
Below, I’ll share with you a meeting method that can greatly enhance the effectiveness of meetings, at least within our organization. I call it the “Seven Steps to Conducting Effective Meetings.”
Step 1: Clearly define the meeting objectives and the value it will contribute.
Every time we have a meeting, the objectives should be clear, focusing on solving a specific problem. For regular meetings, it’s important to keep the duration within one hour. Participants should know why the meeting is being held in order to efficiently address the problem and leave with conclusions.
Those who have attended meetings with me know that I always emphasize the objectives of the meeting as soon as they enter. After the meeting, I always confirm the value it provided to them and to me.
Step 2: Invite only relevant participants to the meeting.
During meetings, only invite relevant participants and avoid randomly expanding or reducing the size of the meeting.
Some may ask, “How do I know who should attend? What if I miss a key person?”
Once the meeting topic and the problem to be solved are determined, we know who must attend and who doesn’t need to. Here are a few scenario-based examples:
For a decision-making meeting, only invite key personnel who have the authority to make decisions. Including those who don’t need to participate will waste their time as they won’t have a chance to speak or decide.
Excellent managers not only value their own time but also respect the time of others. You can use a meeting tool to control your time. Such as Huddles.app, it sets timer for each meeting to make sure this meeting wouldn’t take a long time.
For a learning and sharing meeting, try to involve as many relevant personnel as possible. For example, if the boss wants to promote an internal training session, it is not enough to only inform the supervisors. It is important to directly communicate the task to the key employees responsible for executing it. Otherwise, information will be distorted as it passes down the hierarchy, and more time will be wasted on corrections.
However, for private conversations like performance reviews, it should only involve one-on-one communication, at most with the addition of HR. Including members from collaborative departments will make it difficult to hear the employee’s true thoughts.
If you need to announce important matters, it is necessary to ensure the participation of all members and notify everyone together.
Step 3: Ensure that everyone is prepared for the meeting.
The meeting facilitator plays a key role. Before the meeting, the facilitator should ensure that participants are aware of the meeting objectives and the agenda. They should also collect all the necessary reports, data, and other materials required for the meeting.
For example, in many companies, sales meetings often last for six or seven hours without resolving existing issues and instead focusing on new problems. This happens when the meeting facilitator fails to prepare adequately and organize the meeting flow.
Participants are then left to have divergent discussions, leading to unproductive arguments and deflection. If you are asked to attend a meeting but are not required to provide data or prepare materials, it means you don’t need to attend that meeting.
Step 4: Effective meeting facilitation.
As mentioned earlier, the facilitator needs to track and prompt participants to prepare, control the meeting process, ensure that the meeting reaches conclusions, and that participants leave with results. The facilitator should maintain the pace and flow of the meeting, ensuring it stays on track and focused on the key points. Without a good facilitator, there can’t be a good meeting.
Step 5: Strictly adhere to the meeting process.
To have an efficient meeting, it is crucial to strictly control the flow and time, avoiding getting caught up in details, and ensuring that all agenda items are adequately discussed and results are obtained.
Step 6: Achieve consensus.
Not every meeting will result in a final conclusion, but even reaching a phased consensus can drive progress in problem-solving.
Step 7: Must follow-up.
After reaching a consensus, it is important to have follow-up plans, meeting records, and actionable measures. Holding a meeting to summarize experiences or drive work without timely follow-up and feedback is also a waste, as valuable experiences will be lost.
After saying so much, how should meetings be conducted? Below, I’ll share some case examples of meeting scenarios.
03-Several scenario-based meeting examples.
1.How to conduct a meeting between the head of the online marketing department and the boss for marketing budgeting?
First, you need to know the total budget for marketing to have a target plan. Clearly understand what you want, what the boss wants, and what the common goals are.
In the proposal, demonstrate the value for both sides and understand what you want and what the boss wants, as well as what value you can provide.
Provide specific details, such as how much sales revenue can be generated from advertising investment, what the specific ROI is, and how to spend the budget efficiently.
Invite relevant individuals (key personnel) to attend the meeting, including the boss, finance, and human resources.
Send meeting invitations and distribute the analysis report to the attendees, requesting everyone to review the report before the meeting.
2.How to conduct a meeting when there are differences of opinion with collaborative departments?
A common scenario is when there are differences between the sales department and the operations department regarding lead quality.
The sales department believes that the quantity and quality of leads provided by the marketing department do not meet the standards.
On the other hand, the marketing department believes that sales may have issues with timely follow-ups and lack professionalism in communication with customers.
In such a situation, to resolve the differences and achieve effective collaboration, the first thing is to clarify what you want and what you both collectively want.
The sales department wants to improve performance, while you want the sales leads to be valued, increase lead conversion rates, and enhance sales capabilities, rather than seeking short-term gains or being selective. Each lead from different channels should have different follow-up and conversion strategies.
At this point, your common goal is to bring more performance to the company.
Therefore, if you want sales to value the leads, you need to explain how the leads are generated and the cost involved.
Use data analysis to compare the conversion rates of similar leads in different sales hands. Provide cases to demonstrate which leads are being wasted (due to improper follow-up or customer complaints) and show the conversion that can be achieved by re-engaging with abandoned leads.
You need to use data and examples to prove your inferences or ideas because data doesn’t lie.
In conclusion, as long as you adequately prepare before the meeting, clarify the meeting objectives, participants, meeting value, control the process, and focus on the issues, you can make the meeting efficient.
In management work, meetings are essential, but having disorganized meetings is the biggest waste of time. Excellent managers not only value their own time but also respect the time of others.
- If you are a manager,
- What are the essential qualities and basic skills of a manager?
- How do you track progress and coach your team to achieve results?
- How do you build a team, develop teamwork, and establish a culture?
- How do you identify outstanding reserve cadres?
- How do you conduct performance evaluations?
- How do you break the ice and build rapport with your team through open and honest meetings?
Author: Emily Parker
Meeting outcomes expert who has served as a senior executive at Google and Facebook,
responsible for organizing and conducting various types of meetings. With extensive experience and expertise in meeting planning and execution.