Leading Meetings That Don’t Suck: Time Frame

Leading Meetings That Don’t Suck: Time Frame

Shorter meetings are in this season!

Do you value your time? Of course you do. Do you value your team's time? Of course you do. So do everyone a favor and work hard to get your meetings to an hour or less! Yes, it can be done. Keep reading.

How does the length of your meeting factor into team engagement? Great question, glad you asked! You and I know that attention spans are short and everyone's plate is perennially full so why would you extend a meeting a minute longer than you have to? Most often meetings have a negative impact on team engagement and morale because as you know, most meetings suck!

Bad meetings can have a negative impact on team engagement and lower morale because:

  • there are no follow-ups (read accountability) from other meetings
  • they are perceived as a waste of time
  • they frustrate your top performers
  • not controlling the long talkers in meetings can exasperate everyone
  • they can feel like the entire team is oblivious to real needs and
  • the after meeting conversations become a distraction and reinforce the negativity

If you can think of any other ways ineffective meetings hurt morale, drop it in a comment below.

This is part 2 of a 4 part series. You can find part 1, Leading Meetings that Don't Suck: The Agenda part 1, Leading Meetings that Don't Suck: The Agenda here When you spend the time developing a tightly focused agenda you ensure that the right things are covered and that each topic is time constrained.

Challenge & Promise

Here's the Challenge: over the next 4 posts you will receive 4 meeting hacks that will help you to lead meetings that don't suck. After this short series, you will have the tools you need to lead meetings that are effective and engaging and get results.

An hour, wait what?

If it sounds too good to be true, that's just because it's too good. You can do this. Many of my clients thought it was impossible until they were experiencing more effective, much shorter meetings.

Your team will thank you for giving them their time back.

Time Agenda Items

This is a simple trick but useful. Since you are shooting to conduct an entire meeting in under an hour you must put times next to the agenda items. This way you signal to everyone that your time is valuable and their time is valuable and we intend to only be here 1 hour.

These times are listed next to the agenda item and are guidelines that impact meeting behavior. They help you to plan a meeting designed to be only an hour. These times help your team know they won't be stuck in an endless, meandering meeting.

Prioritize the agenda items

You control the meeting and you control the agenda. You can make sure that the times next to each agenda item add up to 60 minutes. Start by prioritizing the agenda items, giving the items with the most overall team impact more time on the agenda. Updates and FYI can be handled quickly, preferably after the more important items are handled.

Place the items you feel are most important close to the very beginning of the agenda. This way you set the tone that we are here for business and everyone's time is valuable. Also, you begin tackling the heavy items before mental fatigue sets in. You want everyone to be at their best for the main issues.

If you find that your team has a number of big items on the agenda then you might need to have separate meetings to discuss those important items with smaller groups instead of with the entire team. This should also be a filter for what goes on the team meeting agenda. If a topic can be addressed and resolved by a smaller group, try to do that as often as possible.

Start on Time

If you don't start on time, it's going to be really difficult to shift team morale in a positive direction. Your start time is a promise and a threat! If you say the meeting starts at 11 am. Be there, be prepared and start at 11 am. Not 11:05 am because we are still waiting for a few people.

Whenever I hear that I always feel like I'm penalized for being punctual. There are times when you need a quorum but in most instances, you can start those meetings and only need everyone there for the voting.

The walk of shame

When people are late to meetings they have to do the walk of shame. They come in late, keep their heads down and try to find a seat without making any noise or drawing any attention. Don't rob someone of the walk of shame. That social pressure will get them and you to the meetings in a more timely fashion in the future. Because neither you or I like to be the late guy.

This will have an added benefit of letting other people know that when you say 11 am you really mean it.

Stop on Time

Yes, stop your meeting on time. Starting on time is equally important and often discussed. Stopping on time is more difficult. Isn't it funny how the meeting always gets more interesting in the last 10 minutes? Yes, funny how that happens. But still, stop on time.

With about 10 minutes left as you are announcing the (hopefully) last agenda item tell everyone "We have about 10 minutes left". Or you can use "In our last 10 minutes I want us to look at..." This way you begin signaling to the team that we are going to end on time.

What happens if you can't end the meeting neatly? At about 5 minutes left ask for a vote or consensus to extend the meeting for another 20 minutes. That simple. If they say yes, stop at the 20-minute mark. If they say no, table the discussion until the next meeting.

Start on time. End on time.

What ideas do you have around making meetings not suck? Drop your comment below and don't forget to share this post if you got something out of it.

Until next time,

Make today count!

About the author 

Dr. David Arrington

David a husband, father and the principal of Arrington Coaching. He and his team work with leaders, teams, organizations, and entrepreneurs. He regularly speaks and writes on leadership development, team alignment, and peak performance.

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