Leadership Tips: Transforming Meetings from Liabilities to Asset

You might have come across the term “death by meetings”.  In some organisations meetings are only held when they are really needed.  Sadly, particularly in larger organisations, meetings seem to be the norm.  At the same time, meetings can be of real value.  So what can you do to transform meetings from business liability to business asset?

Have a meeting cull

How many meetings are held in your organisation everyday, week, month or year?  Do you know or make an educated guess? 

Truth is in many large organisations, hundreds of meetings are being held every day, costing thousands of pounds or dollars.  Chances are there is a huge amount of duplication and overlap.  There are probably some that are taking a lot of time but not delivering any value.

So what’s the answer?  Take time do an inventory or stock take of every meeting in the organisation and ask:

• Why is the meeting being held?

• What has it contributed to business results in the last 6 months compared to the investment?

• What would happen if we dropped it?

If you cannot come up with compelling reasons you probably don’t need the meeting.

Minimise documents

If you start producing lots of papers for meetings it takes even longer and is even costlier to run the meeting.  There will be a handful of meetings that you will need to make formal with papers presented but most don’t fall into this category.

Think about it in most situations people bring things to meetings to:

• Provide an update

• Inform

• Get a decision

Instead of spending huge amounts of time getting people to produce documents, why not invest in training people in verbal presentation and asking effective questions.

Set short deadlines for actions

Insist that actions are completed within days rather than weeks of meetings.  Why?  Simply, because if something is really important, people will make it a priority and the action will be completed.  If it does not get done it might be that it was not important in the first place.

Train people to listen and question effectively

We all, to a greater or lesser extent love the sound of our own voices.  In reality, few people are really skilled listeners or skilled at asking powerful questions to get to the heart of an issue.  Time spent training people to listen effectively and use good questioning can save hours in terms of meetings.

Bottom Line – Meetings run and conducted well are a vital part of organisation success.  So what do you need to do in order to transform your meetings from resource stealers to business asset?

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 7,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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7 comments
LouiseBJ says 8 July 2009

Good post Duncan! So many meetings within companies are unnecessary and you raise some great questions to ask.

When I was a corporate employee I used to find the interminable meetings both boring and unproductive. I remember suggesting once that if they didn’t provide tea & coffee, people wouldn’t get so comfortable and would therefore be anxious to finish the meeting more quickly! They didn’t like the suggestion and carried on holding their 2-3 hour meetings.

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Mike Osborne says 13 July 2009

Great post and good suggestions – particularly like your observation about the three things people bring to meetings. In our view there are only three types of outcome for any agenda item; shared understanding, agreement (decision-making), task assignment – and keeping them separate is critical.

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