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Tip: When to do a Meeting ?

Traditionally, manager is an individual in charge of a group of tasks. A manager often, but not necessarily, has people who report to him or her. ( I hate the term subordinated )

However what I see most the time is someone who is in an eternal race between meetings and answering emails and phone calls. Also most managers I see don't have time to manage people who report to them. And this can be very frustrating.

If you think you are stuck in this cycle of frequently canceling your 1:1, finds delegation challenging and feel isolated...then you probably already feel bad enough.

instead of going on with this topic, how about if I share with you some steps I took that helped me to manage my  day and also to develop a enjoyable team atmosphere. I did not develop all these ideas, mostly they are improvements of what I saw in great managers in my last decade of work in several countries....without working extra hours!

You can't give other people what you don't have. You're confused, insecure, disorganized? your team will be too. My goal is to devote sufficient time to get 100% clear on what I want to achieve; I generally do this by spending more time on priorities and follow-up, and less time in meetings. I try to reduce as much as I can my meeting times so we as a team can strategically focus in reaching the goals. Make everyone visualize the goal. The shared vision.

 

but how to create a shared vision?

Refuse more meeting invites. I see too many project managers looking at their calendar and thinking of them as a Facebook contest. newsflash: it is not! This is a trap! Having a full calendar of meetings does not have anything to do with being busy or accomplishing more. Way to many people are measuring themselves by the number of meetings they have. Yeah, going to a lot of meetings may make you feel important...for a while, but this is not a good way to allocate your precious time. So, next time you get a meeting invite, ask yourself, "Do I really need to go?" If the answer is "no," decline the meeting, if the answer is "Yes", think again and try to weight the pros and cons of going. If after that the answer is still "Yes", then accept; otherwise, pick "No" as your default answer.

If you really think you need to attend, consider these 3 options:

  • Feel the pre-meeting. Most the times, just a quick written comment or a 5 minute chat might be enough to get your part done. And the side effect is that this will force the meeting organizer to actually create an agenda. (way too many meetings are developed on-the-fly)
  • Send a proxy. Sending someone else from the team works great when the project is green and the meetings are just scheduled checkpoints. This is also great for the person going because it demonstrates also that your project is clear, transparent, balanced, open doors.
  • Decline the meeting and ask for the meeting notes. Don't they write meeting's notes? You see, you are starting to make others realize how important time is wasted on meetings. The pure act of forcing them to write down the meeting's notes is a deterrent to make unplanned meetings in the future.

 

If after all these points you still feel guilty for declining meeting invitations…

Think this way, if you were sick during the meeting day, would it have it to be rescheduled? If "No" then that's it, you probably don't need to attend.

If “Yes” then ask yourself:"Am I here for strategic decisions or tactical decisions?" If you are there for strategic decisions, ask to have your part of the meeting close to the start. Then after that, you're probably safe to get out! Excuse yourself and go deliver. This leads to my next point...

Reduce your meeting duration. When you find yourself talking a lot, providing updates, and people are around in the room checking their phones, talking about football or anything else do yourself a favor: make 15-minutes your default meeting duration. If you find yourself making too many 1-hour meetings, you need to really work that out. Very rarely one needs hour long meetings; they should be the exception, not the norm. Here some things you can try?

Calculate how much costs 1 minute/meeting. The total cost of the meeting should not be larger that the time it takes to reach the decision.
Try the phone. Conferencing systems are there for a reason. Try to attend the meetings via phone; likewise try not to schedule a meeting when you can just discuss it personally in a chat or over the phone; and again, do not call someone to decide something that can be resolved in an email. Put effort in making lean meetings. Make it a game out of it and use it to show off your colleagues about how sharp, to the point and decisive your meetings are.

Now, remember about the beginning of the post? about you can only offer what you have? So, pass it on. Shape the model and let others mimic your style. Every time you see a chance to help others managing your time, do help them; and be careful not to step on people's toes in the process, but truth is vast majority of the times people are welcoming for time management tips and tricks.

 

In short

  • When it comes to meetings: Email > Phone > quick 1:1 chat > quick group chat > full meeting.
  • Full meetings if for when a real-time decision needs to me made or those moments when a task can be 100% finished in the meeting duration. Still, consider that the effort should be cheaper than the cost of meeting.
  • Meetings require clear agenda, bullet points, sent together with the invite, not a few minutes before.
  • During the meeting, take notes. Whenever possible say "I'll come back to you later on this". Don't try to answer the issue immediately if it does not have to be.
  • After the meeting, update your team.
  • Brag about having a clean calendar. Remember a fully booked calendar is not a popularity contest, nor represents someone's actually delivering things. It only creates pressure and most the times unrealistic expectations when not met.

 

So...now you have free time. What to do?

Block your time. Now. This will send a very clear message to people that time is important and you should not attend meetings during specified hours. For example, I always block my time before 9AM, between 11:45AM and 1:30PM, after 4PM on Fridays. After I did this, nobody ever scheduled meetings during these times...and we are all here still alive and with status green in the projects (who would have thought, hey? Smile).

Use the free time. If you don't, someone will. Fight for it, it is your free time after all. Don't ever trade it off. You fought hard for it. Set aside time for e-mail, general internet things, 1:1. See this as a meeting with yourself. How much importance would you do if you were to meet yourself?

All this might be hard at the beginning, but the real goal of this in not only make others to see how much time we spend in useless meetings; most of all, is to make people do reasonable choices and maybe...just maybe the world still will exists tomorrow if your input is missed today.

These tips worked for me, so I am here just sharing them with you and I hope some of them can be useful for you as well.

Cheers,

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