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“Argh”, I hear you cry, “not another meeting!”. Organisations are being held to ransom by a ‘meetings culture’ and leaders are struggling to make them matter.

The average UK worker attends 3.7 meetings a week. They spend 1 hour and nine minutes preparing for it and 1 hour and 22 minutes attending it. This means in one week, a whole day of working time is taken up with meetings. In many organisations, this ‘meetings culture’ means that many employees struggle to have time to do any actual work!

I know one marketing manager for a large corporate who had to tell her assistant that she had booked her into so many meetings in one day that there wasn’t time for her to go to the toilet, let alone have lunch!

I work with a lot of leaders and managers and the common complaints about meetings are:

–    There is no structure or etiquette

–    Having meetings about meetings (for the love of God why?)

–    No one is held accountable

–    People feel like they can’t speak up because they aren’t the Chair

–    Resentment building because of time spent in meetings

–    No productive outcomes from the meetings

–    People cancelling meetings at the last minute and no one holding them to account.

What can you do about meetings that overrun and are unproductive? How do you stop the same issues coming up time and again with nothing being actioned?

Here are some steps to get back in control of meetings:

–    Ask is this meeting necessary – is there another way of resolving the issue?

–    Suggest a better way to structure meetings. Try POST (Purpose, Outcomes, Structure, and Timings) in every meeting invite. This way people can make an informed decision about whether they need to be there, delegate or supply information remotely. You can read more about this in my blog.

–    Focus on feedback and accountability.

–    Be prepared to confront the key offenders to change the culture of meetings in your organisation

–    Role model how to ‘be’ in a meeting

–    Focus on quality conversations – ask is this important or can it wait?

–    Suggest productive, creative breaks

–    Be honest and look at how you may be contributing to the problem and make the decision to look at meetings differently.

Leaders need to take responsibility for the good and not so good in their teams. I like to call this the ‘stinky fish’ scenario. If the real issues are swept under the carpet that fish just keeps on getting stinkier. Allow people to put the real issues on the table and be prepared to address them.
Be brave and make the changes and you will be delighted with the results. You’ll get more time back in your diary. Plus, the meetings you attend will be more productive, which in turn will improve your business results.
If you need help with making meetings matter, I run bespoke workshops on how to have conversations that count. I work with managers to help them lead more effective team meetings. Please email hello@jocowlin.com to learn more.

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