Recently, I had a meeting scheduled with two people from the same company. They were both coming in from two different directions. One was driving to our location, the other flying. When they arrived they immediately started discussing the meeting (conference call) they were just on with other members of their team. The part I overheard went something like this…
Person 1: “That’s was a long meeting.”
Person 2: “Tell me about it.”
Person 1: “Did you understand what [person’s name] needed?”
Person 2: “No. I couldn’t understand much, I was going through airport security when he was talking”
Person 1: “Yeah, I was in a lot of traffic and I couldn’t pay much attention. Well, what are we supposed to do next?”
Person 2: “I don’t know. I think at the end everyone felt like we needed to have another meeting.”
Having worked for and with companies like this I know exactly what the day to day is like for these two almost every day – meetings, meetings, meetings.
If you’re like the people I met with recently you are so used to having meetings, and having so many, that the meetings become nothing but background noise. So much background noise that you can have them while driving through traffic or going through airport security because it doesn’t matter. These types of meetings aren’t designed for decision making or productivity, they’re designed to keep people in a false sense that they’re actually being productive. But they aren’t.
So, what’s the single best way for staffing companies to be more productive? Easy. Stop having meetings. That’s right. Meetings are anything but productive and removing them from your culture will improve your company’s productivity immediately.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes. If you’re a manager or an executive working for a big staffing company there are a lot of moving parts, lots of departments, people, decision makers and big decisions to make. Your job is tough and at times, very frustrating. However, having back to back meetings all day, every day and having meetings about meetings becomes a toxic routine for inaction and a lack of productivity.
The biggest issue with creating an internal culture based on meetings is that it sends consequences of inaction throughout your entire organization. If you’re a manager or executive feeling frantic, frustrated and hopping from one meeting to the next, imagine how the team you’re managing feels. What needs to happen is more clarity around your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish. This means focusing more time on tasks, priorities, prep work, and follow-up, and less time actually having meetings.
Unfortunately though, making this change isn’t something you can do on your own. Especially if this has been the operating routine for your company for years. Your whole team needs to get on board and break the cycle of unproductive meetings.
Here are some tips on how to quit having so many meetings and increase productivity at your staffing firm:
1- Schedule work time
What’s the first thing that needs to happen in order to have a meeting? That’s right – check everyone’s calendar for availability. Open availability = time for a meeting! So, fill up that availability with work tasks you actually need to get done. That’s right, literally put it on your calendar as blocked out time. When you do this you might actually be shocked at how much ‘extra’ time you have to get things done and not waste time in the abyss of busy (Abyss of Busy™).
2- Limit the number of meetings you have
Start slowly slimming down the number of meetings you have and don’t stop! Start with only allowing two a day. Then one. Then only 3 a week and see how far you can go. Resist meetings for the sake of meetings. Be vigilant about saying no. Only call for or attend a meeting when there is an important business issue to discuss, or input, approval, or agreement is needed on something.
3- Limit meeting attendees
The more people in a meeting the greater the odds of things going off the rails. Non related items will come up, more clarification will be needed or someone will just start telling a story about their cat. And NO ONE likes cats. Am I right? Only invite people immediately relevant and necessary to accomplish the goals of the meeting.
4- Limit your time in meetings
Set the time of your meetings at 15 minutes. That’s not very much time right? Right! So get to it and be done with it. If you have to go longer then fight against every minute increase. Choose 20 minutes instead of 30, and 30 instead of an hour. In almost no case should your meeting last more than an hour.
Want to get really serious about it? Set a timer. When the timer goes off the meeting stops. Period. Pencils down.
5 – Have an agenda
Make a new rule that every meeting has an agenda. No meeting, no agenda. Even better, the person calling the meeting has to create the agenda and it has to be sent at least 24 – 48 hours prior to the meeting. Doing this alone will completely discourage people from calling unnecessary, last minute meetings.
6- Take notes
The meeting must have a note taker and the notes have to be circulated to all who need them within 24 hours. Take detailed notes on the discussions, the decisions, and any other relevant information.
7- Get full attendance or cancel
If you’re limiting the frequency, duration and attendees at every meeting then all those invited must attend. If any one of them cancels, then the meeting is canceled or rescheduled. This keeps you out of the ‘well, let’s go ahead and meet without her and then just have another meeting next week when she’s here’ routine.
You don’t have to be in person to have a meeting. Conference calls are fine (video calls are better). But don’t be calling in while trying to go through airport security or making your way through downtown traffic.
8- Check your cell phones at the door
That’s right, no one needs a cell phone in the meeting. A computer? Sure. A phone? Nope, that’s a distraction and potential reason another meeting will be needed. Eliminate this and any other distractions that take your focus from accomplishing the goals of the meeting.
9- Simplify reporting tasks/tools
Implement better tools for quick and rapid distribution of internal communication. Don’t have a meeting if a simple phone call will do and never call if it can be emailed (Don’t get me started about how much phone calls waste time). Send more emails. Use IM/Chat tools. Check out IDONETHIS. It’s a great tool for having your team report their daily activities, and letting everyone see and comment on them, in simple way through email.
10 – No meetings on Fridays
It’s Friday. Don’t have meetings on Fridays. No one wants to do that. Also, by simply making this a rule you have one more automatic limiter to your number of meetings.
What say you? Think meetings are a time drain or necessary part of your business? If you have ideas on how to limit meetings or make them more productive let us know!