Poor business meeting habits

You likely thought too many meetings were time-wasters before this pandemic. Now your “meeting fun” has likely moved online to a higher time-sucking level!

Steven Rogelberg, professor and author of the book, The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, reports that 8 out of the average 23 hours a week leaders spend in meetings are unproductive. That’s a day a week wasted! That truly sucks.

Rogelberg also cites research that shows, “some 90% of people report daydreaming in meetings, and 73% admit that they use meeting time to do other work.” This book was published last year – before this year’s explosion in virtual meetings. What do those numbers look like now when meeting participants are answering e-mails, looking after kids, or doing laundry while part of virtual meetings?

It gets worse. Rogelberg reports, “My research suggests that only around 50% of meeting time is effective, well used, and engaging — and these effectiveness numbers drop even lower when it comes to remote meetings.”

I continue to be astounded and mystified why so many leaders lead or participate in poorly run, wasteful meetings. They seem to feel they’re an unavoidable cost of doing business. The only explanation seems to be ignorance. Meeting leaders don’t know what they don’t know. Or they know better but aren’t doing better. They’ve developed sloppy meeting habits.

Meeting Effectiveness Checklist

Here’s a summary of best practices for highly effective virtual or in-person meetings:

  1. Clear agendas with timeframes, objectives, and desired outcomes for each agenda item. Check in to add/delete agenda items before the meeting starts.
  2. Ground rules everyone agrees to and follows.
  3. Conflict management fostering healthy debates and reducing dysfunctional arguments or participants shutting down.
  4. Clarity about whether decisions/actions for each agenda item will be by command, consultation, or consensus.
  5. Dealing constructively with dysfunctional team behaviors.
  6. Clear action plans and next steps for each agenda item.
  7. Documentation and communication follow-through for meeting attendees and those who didn’t attend but are involved in next steps and action plans.
  8. Skilled leaders that know how to keep things on track and focused.
  9. An atmosphere of openness and trust.
  10. Regular evaluations of meeting effectiveness.

How’s your meeting leadership? Most meeting leaders are blissfully ignorant about how wasteful attendees feel their meetings are. How do you know what attendees think of your meetings?