Chances are if you’ve worked in an office environment, then you’ve also experienced a bad meeting experience. So many of us have been subject to a ‘quick check-in’ that then dragged on for an hour, or a ‘team meeting’ where only one person did all the talking. Unfortunately, bad meetings are an all too common occurrence in the working world.
Are all these meetings even a productive use of time? A recent study by Atlassian found that 47% of employees feel meetings are the biggest waste of time in the workplace with an incredible 91% of people admitting to daydreaming during meetings!
Clearly, something has to change.
How can leaders and managers ensure that meetings are collaborative and engaging with concrete decisions being made and wheels turning?
Current Issues With Meetings
Meetings currently manage to waste time without being productive, and even more so for remote or hybrid work environments. This needs to change, meetings should be an efficient way to align all employees on current objectives and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Lots of meetings have no real agenda or go off on a tangent, which leads people to disengage and lose focus. This feeling can then seep into the rest of their work, employees feeling frustrated with the lack of progress and no real sense of direction, which could lead a drop in job satisfaction.
It would be far too easy to claim that the current meeting culture is here to stay, that it’s normal to find meetings a waste of time, and that’s just the way things are. Yet, this defeatist attitude doesn’t have to infiltrate your organisation, just because something is the norm, doesn’t mean it can’t change. You can make team meetings more effective, read on to find out how.
How To Make Meetings More Engaging
It’s a classic move, but it’s still around for a reason. Using icebreaker questions can be awkward in the beginning but the rewards will be worth it. They are a definite way to get every single participant involved, so are fantastic for making online meetings more interactive and making remote employees feel more included. You might also manage to get a few laughs out of them as well, so you can lead into the meeting with a jovial atmosphere
Typical icebreaker questions can include:
- Share 2 truths and a lie
- What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
- What’s at the top of your bucket list?
- Which personal skill do you most want to develop this year?
- What would you call your autobiography?
If you think people will feel put on the spot, you can always prep your team beforehand with a friendly email sent out the day prior.
To encourage participation levels to stay high, leaders can choose to elect a different meeting host each week.
Their job will be to keep driving the agenda and keep the team on track. It’s an interesting tactic that keeps employees on their toes, individuals will be watching each other to learn from when it comes to their turn and will be less likely to switch off during a meeting.
At the end of each meeting ask everyone to quickly share their thoughts on how the meeting went.
This way, every single individual will have participated in the team meeting, be it remote or in-office, and you will slowly start to foster that collaborative meeting culture.
How To Boost Collaborative Meetings
The living agenda, or real-time agenda, is the perfect way to improve a collaborative meeting. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s simple, a living agenda is a shared document where everyone comes together to create and edit the agenda of the meeting.
This is how it works:
- A shared document is created before the meeting.
- Individuals are encouraged to add topics to the list.
- Then as a group, topics are prioritised to create an order for the agenda on which points to discuss first.
- When the meeting takes place, the topics are discussed in said order until time runs out.
- After the meeting, individuals are encouraged to send feedback on how the meeting went and how it can be improved for next time.
Living agendas are a fantastic way to increase engagement in a meeting thanks to everyone being required to participate. They also help to improve focus as since the agenda is made known beforehand, people have time to prepare for the meeting. They are also good at increasing participation with remote employees, getting people away from working in silos and coming together instead.
Collective Decision Making
It can be all too easy for the same individuals to dominate a meeting, leaving the more introverted employees passive and not contributing.
Avoid this by first utilising icebreakers, as outlined above. If the team already knows each other, well, these icebreakers could take on a personal note. Once everyone has contributed, get clear on the aim of the meeting and get down to business. When it becomes time to make a decision, ask for every single person’s vote, and make sure people know beforehand that they will be required before to have an opinion to keep them concentrating during the meeting.
Collective decision-making is a great way to increase participation and overall engagement from employees. Learn how to facilitate this further with the next suggestion, rapid decision-making.
Rapid Decision Making
One of the primary pain points of meetings is the fact that most meetings never go anywhere, often caused by the alternate viewpoints raised by individuals. The lack of decision-making is a real issue, which is why turning the focus to how to speed up decision-making can be a game-changer.
As a leader, going into the meeting, you will need to make clear that the purpose of the meeting is to decide on X or Y, this forces everyone to remain focused on the outcome. The next step will be to give the decision a time limit, allowing debates for between 15-30 minutes and then the decision must be voted on. It’s been found that the ideal meeting length is actually only 15 minutes, with focus dropping as time goes on, so although it may seem controversial, try and keep the time allocated to debate to a minimum.
Finally, once a decision is made, trust your team’s capabilities and stick with it. The more you practise rapid decision-making, the easier it will get and the efficiency of your team’s meetings will skyrocket.
There’s no right or wrong way to hold a meeting, but there are certainly different strategies to bring in when they have become a waste of time.
Keep everyone focused on the same objective and make sure every person participates with these easy-to-implement methods. And ensure to improve the quality of your meetings to get the most value from everyone's times
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.