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In a meeting? Do you know why you’re there?

business Updated: Feb 17, 2013 21:19 IST
Carson Tate
Carson Tate
Hindustan Times
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Have you found yourself holding meetings in the office restroom?

I run a management consulting firm, and one of our clients found that her team was following her into the restroom, file folders in hand, to get answers to their many questions. (The women did that. The men waited for her outside the door...)

A majority of executives spend a significant percentage of their workdays in meetings. And the higher their rank, the worse the situation. But exactly how many meetings did you attend last week that yielded any result? And at how many did you think, “Why am I even here?”

Speaking from my experience working with Fortune 500 companies, it’s time for a meeting revolution. Instead of automatically accepting that next meeting request, pause and consider your return on investment. How does the purpose of the meeting — and I’m crossing my fingers that there is a stated purpose — align with the company’s strategic priorities? Is attending this meeting the best use of your time? If not, revolt — by declining the request.

By declining, you will rock the boat. But don’t stop rocking it. If there is no way to avoid a meeting, challenge its duration. For instance, do project status updates really need a whole hour?

For in-person meetings, consider requiring everyone to stand up; leg fatigue will ensure that everyone has an incentive to keep it short.

By shortening a meeting, you automatically narrow its focus. We call this crunching the container. As a result, you eliminate unnecessary chatter that veers off topic.

On meeting agendas, include bullet points detailing the desired results of the session. At any point, refer to those bullet points: if you are off track, correct course.

A meeting revolution will create a new corporate culture. First, of course, there will be fewer meetings. And, second, the meetings that remain will be shorter and more focussed, with a clear return on investment.

That senior executive who couldn’t take a break in peace, she led a meeting revolution in her organisation. Happily, visits the restroom in peace.

Carson Tate runs a management consulting firm. The New York Times