Meetings: Time wasted in meetings matters for leadership


There’s an interesting article in the January 2011 Training Journal: ‘What’s Wrong With Work’ by Blair Palmer.  Rather than talking about leadership skills per se, he talks about organisational barriers to managers actually using their leadership skills – barriers that would ‘make even the most motivated, confident, driven manager shudder’.

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 One such barrier is the time wasted in meetings.  Palmer quotes very interesting American research on meetings* estimating that  managers spend approximately 60 hours a month in meetings and 30 -50% of that time is wasted.  When attendees are canvassed afterwards, they have widely varying ideas on what was decided, or even if anything was decided!

Interestingly the Training Journal article sees waste-of-time meetings as an unnecessary frustration put in the way of middle managers by  senior executives. While most senior executives know meetings waste vast amounts of time in an organisation, they don’t believe it can be any different.

But meetings don’t have to be  a waste of time  and ensuring that you lead effective meetings  can add considerably to your  mana.  Make sure you seek feedback  about the effectiveness of your own meetings – the research showed that the meeting initiator typically regards the meeting as far more productive than the other attendees!

  1. The key to a good meeting is preparation. The research in the white paper found that the average time spent on preparation for a meeting described as ‘productive’ was twice as long (one hour!) as the preparation time for a meeting described as ‘unproductive’.
  2. The single most valuable preparation factor is the agenda – even having one is an innovative idea in some meetings!  Keep the agenda very focused on the type of issue meetings are good for – resolving conflicts – Hence an intriguing post on the Life Hacker blog: Make meetings more productive by arguing.
  3. Work out  your goal  for each agenda item and ask yourself if a meeting is necessary in order to do that. For example, don’t use a meeting for sharing information – there are loads of more efficient ways of doing that.
  4. Use an approach for each agenda item that will enable the meeting to achieve its goal.
  5. Order your agenda so you start with a positive item, then wade into the conflicts because they will take the most time; then finish on a positive note.

Start anywhere with these tips and they can make a perceptible difference.  The quality of your meetings could have a big impact on employee engagement.  Despite our negativity about meetings,the research showed that 92% of meeting attendees value meetings as an opportunity to contribute.

* The research was conducted by Info Com which specialises in market research in the telecommunications arena.

One Response to “Meetings: Time wasted in meetings matters for leadership”

  1. Hello, your articles here Meetings: Time wasted in meetings matters for leadership « Communication Skills to write well, thanks for sharing!

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