A recent article in the Washington Post shared Tom Fox’s assessment of the meetings he attended over the course of one month. He didn’t report the score on his rating system for meetings he wanted to avoid in the future (Red), those that were a fairly good use of time (Yellow), and the ones that produced some valuable outcome for himself and his team (Green). But he did dig deeper into why some meetings are a problem. For each of those “Red” meetings, he asked 3 questions:
- Who requested those meetings – me, or somebody else?
- What could I have done to make those meetings more productive?
- How important was my participation in those meetings?
The result? He now has some new policies regarding meetings:
- Respond to meeting invitations (requests) by:
- Politely bowing out of meetings that appear likely to be an unproductive use of time;
- Asking for an email sharing of information instead of a meeting, to allow people to review it at a time that fits their own schedule; or
- Asking for clarification of the meeting purpose, timeline, or invitation list to determine the value for you.
- And, to initiate your own meetings, send out a meeting agenda with a timeline, organized to help achieve the meeting objective. This also helps during the meeting, to keep people from drifting into other subjects or monopolizing the discussion.
These are good examples of “productive conversations”:
- Performance conversations use requests and promises to create agreements for action, and
- Initiative conversations that state What, When, and Why you are proposing something, in this case, a meeting.
It’s a great way to be more responsible for your time at work. Extra bonus: these tips might even reduce a recurring non-productive conversation in your life: complaining about meetings that are too long, badly managed, or a waste of your time. Now you have some ways to say No when you need to. You can see Tom’s article at How to Get Out of Meetings.