Do your meetings have a purpose?

I’ve recently been working with a group of leaders who shared their frustration on having very little time available to do any work. Having spent most of their days in meetings, they found themselves too exhausted to focus on other things the rest of the time.

What became apparent to me during this discussion was the lack of energy in the room as the leaders discussed the number of meetings they attended, and how they were ‘back to back’ all day, leaving no time to do any work.

So I asked a question to get them thinking: “Why do you go to the meetings?”

The answers were interesting – ranging from “because they’re in my diary” to “someone from my service is expected to attend” to “being visible”.

Then, I asked, “what’s the purpose of the meetings?” The answers weren’t quite as forthcoming. In fact, there was silence.

The leaders attended meetings but didn’t know what the meetings were for!

I was stunned. How do you know how you can contribute or add value if you’re not clear why you’re there in the first place?

I shared an example of a previous role I’d been in, where I was given an induction plan filled with lots of meetings. After spending the morning getting to know my new team, getting familiar with the IT equipment (and, more importantly where the kitchen was), I spoke to my manager about my first meeting. I wanted to find out who would be attending and the agenda. Unfortunately, my manager didn’t have this information, so I asked what the meeting was for.

I was greeted with silence.

Now as a coach, I can do silence. I’m comfortable with silence. Yet this silence was not comfortable for me or my manager. So I thought I’d give some further prompts and ask what she wanted me to do at the meeting: i.e. introduce myself, take notes, feedback on previous agenda items, share my opinion, or agree any actions.

You guessed it, she continued to stare at me. Eventually, she said in a very stern voice, it’s on your induction plan, so please go to it.

Needless, to say my time in that role didn’t last long.

Hearing this example, my clients had their ‘aha moment’. They realised they had been going along with the flow; with little time to think let alone action anything, they processed meetings in their diary because that’s what they’d always done. This had led to a busy approach of doing what’s in the diary next, rather than questioning what needs to be done.

We agreed meetings are a great way for people to share and exchange information, connect, collaborate, make decisions, plan ahead, and get feedback… if they’re purposeful. But we all recognised a culture of meetings, meetings, meetings, which get longer, more frequent and don’t necessarily involve meaningful discussion or result in actions or changes. The leaders saw how this contributed to their frustration, preventing them from focusing on where they could add value, do what they do well and making a positive contribution at work.

The one question you need

For any meeting to be successful, you need to be very clear on why you are bringing together the group of people and what you want to achieve. That way, there is a clear intention of achieving a goal with the full support and ownership of the people involved.

Although my clients acknowledged they would need to spend some of their time in meetings, the single question, “what is the purpose of this meeting?” allowed them to choose which meetings they would actually attend.

If you’re experiencing a culture of meetings, meetings, meetings and find yourself too exhausted to focus on other things, coaching could help you experience more purposeful meetings and more energy at work. Why not book a no-obligation consultation to see how I could help?

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