6 ways to conduct positive and proactive meetings
Under the clock face of Old St. Mary's Cathedral near where I live in San Francisco is an admonishment from Ecclesiastes, "Son, Observe the Time and Fly from Evil," aimed at the men who frequented the surrounding brothels in the 1850s.
In our modern, meeting-filled society, most people consider business meetings a necessary evil, as well as a major waste of time. How much time are we talking about?
The #1 time-waster at the office is "too many meetings, up from No. 3 in 2008," according to 47 percent of the 3000+ people surveyed in 2012 by career site Salary.com. A British study of 1,000 employees by Opinion Matters, a London market-research company, similarly found that office workers spend four hours a week in meetings on average - and they think more than half of that time as wasted. Yet another survey by 3M Meeting Network of business executives, found that 25-50 percent of the time people spend in meetings is wasted.
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Whether held in person, by phone, or by video conference, there are as many flavors of business meetings as there are of ice cream: team meetings, staff meetings, ad-hoc meetings (those that aren’t scheduled), work meetings (those that are), as well as kick-off (and wrap-up) meetings. Held for all kinds of reasons: to review, evaluate, discuss, problem-solve, brainstorm, buy, sell, negotiate, decide, inform, brief, present, and (occasionally) to collaborate.
There are an equally large number of books, magazine articles and websites devoted to how to hold successful meetings, not to mention a wider variety of meeting consultants and ‘facilitators’ who specialize in helping make business meetings run more smoothly. Here are a handful of the best tips I’ve found for holding focused, productive meetings that just might redeem the time you and your coworkers waste doing unnecessary things.
1. Keep it short and sweet
Remember, time is money. If you’re pulling workers away from their tasks to attend a meeting, you need to think in terms of how the meeting outcome will impact your company’s bottom line. The next time you’re caught in a meeting you think is a waste of time and money, you might want to use one of these online meeting cost calculators (MeetingKing or EffectiveMeetings.com) to put a number on exactly how much the meeting is costing your company. You’ll soon realize how costly such ineffective meetings are.
2. Start on time
If someone is late for the meeting, don’t review information that’s already been covered.See above: ‘Time = $.’
3. The fewer people, the better
Limit the number of participants in a meeting to as few people as possible since there’s convincing research that the best size for a decision-making team is an odd number close to five.
4. Stay on topic
Make sure that your meeting has a clear, stated purpose that all participants know and understand. Have an agenda that contains only items related to the objective. If a written agenda is too formal for your workgroup, then send an outline via email of what items are going to be covered during the meeting.
5. End on time (or earlier!)
Since most meetings don’t stay within their time limits, people will be pleasantly surprised by a meeting that actually ends sooner than scheduled (and thus more likely to do the actions requested of them in the meeting). If there are issues which cannot be resolved in the meeting, agree to set another time to meet and discuss that specific issue.
6. Get up - stand up!
You might also want to consider creative alternatives to long, time-wasting workplace meetings such as “stand-up meetings,” which are meetings timeboxed to 15 minutes and held standing up to remind people to keep meetings short and to-the-point. Daily stand-up meetings got their start in agile software development projects where developers were supposed to update their co-workers with three things: What they have done since yesterday's meeting; what they are doing today; and any obstacles that stand in the way of getting work done. Check out websites such as MartinFowler.com on how to do effective stand-ups and tools such as OmniContext™ Personal Analytics (which collects and analyzes real-time movement data on Windows and Android smartphones—to insure people actually do stand during meetings.) Done right, stand-up meetings can help employees stay engaged and up-to-date on important issues, which should the goal of all team-meetings.
About the author
Roger Smith is a Technology Marketing Specialist at Hypersoft Information Systems, a 20-year-old software consulting firm specializing in Organizational and Operational Intelligence.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.