As busy professionals know all too well, time is one of the most precious resources. Once spent, you can never get it back. Yet, workers waste an incredible amount of it on one routine task: meetings. In fact, the average executive in the United States spends a whopping 23 hours per week in meetings, according to an article in MIT’s Sloan Management Review.
To be sure, meetings in the business world are necessary, even beneficial. Employees need to convene regularly to communicate essential information, brainstorm, plan, strategize, solve problems and celebrate wins. Meetings also boost workplace morale and camaraderie.
The problem then is not meetings in themselves but inefficient gatherings, time spent together, whether in person or online, that lacks focus and direction and only serves to add to the tally of weekly hours spent in meetings.
Chem-Dry is rooted in efficiency so it’s only natural that I make it a practice to optimize meetings. Our founder Robert Harris revolutionized the carpet-cleaning industry in the early 1970s by discovering a more effective way to clean carpets. While working at a small carpet cleaning company during law school, he was unimpressed by traditional cleaning products that took too long to dry. In an archetypal “ah-ha” moment, he discovered that carbonation could speed up and improve the cleaning process, an innovation upon which Chem-Dry was built.
So, what’s the equivalent to carbonating when it comes to meetings? In today’s fast-paced business landscape, effective meeting management plays a pivotal role in maximizing productivity and achieving desired outcomes. Here are some best practices to enhance meetings in your organization:
1. Set clear objectives
Before the meeting starts, take the time to define the purpose and identify specific goals. For example, a purpose could be to discuss ways to increase sales on your slowest day of the week with the meeting goal being to walk away with three new promotional ideas. Communicating these objectives to all participants in advance helps ensure everyone is on the same page and can come prepared to contribute meaningfully. When the conversation inevitably veers off topic, these objectives can also bring renewed direction and focus, preventing tangents and time waste.
2. Streamline the attendee list
Also key to efficient meeting management is streamlining the list of people who will attend. Identify the most essential participants who truly need to be present and involved in the discussions. Inviting unnecessary employees runs the risk of prolonging the meeting. A tight list kept to only those directly involved fosters a more conducive environment for productive discussions and making decisions.
3. Effectively create agendas
Well-planned and organized agendas can help maximize productivity in meetings. Revisit your meeting objective and prioritize topics that align with it. It’s also important to allocate blocks of time for each agenda item. This helps ensure there is adequate time to discuss each point, keeps the meeting moving forward and prevents a single topic from cannibalizing the entire meeting. Another benefit is that you will have a better idea of how much time the meeting will actually take and can schedule accordingly. There’s an old adage called Parkinson’s Law that means work expands to fill allotted time, so what could have easily been a 30-minute meeting turns into an hourlong one. Lastly, be sure to share the agenda ahead of time so participants can come prepared to discuss each critical item.
4. Encourage active participation
A productive meeting is one where everyone actively participates and contributes their ideas and points of views. Avoid conducting meetings with an iron fist by creating an inclusive environment that fosters collaboration and idea sharing among participants. If you are the most senior employee in the meeting, hold your opinions until others have voiced theirs. If you are running the meeting, call on individuals who have not spoken up yet. By leveraging diverse perspectives and encouraging open dialogue, you can tap into the brainpower of the group and drive better outcomes. This approach also bolsters employee engagement and promotes a positive team atmosphere.
5. Implement efficient follow-up procedures
The effectiveness of a meeting does not end when it’s over. Efficient follow-up procedures are crucial for maintaining momentum and accountability. Assign clear action items to specific individuals, along with deadlines, to ensure that decisions turn into action. Communicate meeting minutes promptly, summarizing key discussion points and outcomes. Regularly follow up on action items and provide progress updates to keep everyone informed. By implementing these follow-up procedures, you create a sense of accountability and ensure that meetings translate into enhanced business performance.
What leader would not want their employees spending more time on delivering results? In that same vein, time-strapped employees would treasure more time to focus on their job duties so they can hit their goals and still have time for dinner with their families. All this can be achieved with a little planning, organization, and effective meeting management – in turn, driving bottom line results.
Ed Quinlan is the President of Chem-Dry, part of the BELFOR Franchise Group. Chem-Dry is the world’s leading carpet and upholstery cleaning service with a network spanning 55 countries, serving over 40,000 homes and businesses a week worldwide. The Chem-Dry franchise system began in 1973 and started franchising internationally in 1986. For more information about Chem-Dry and its franchising opportunities, visit https://www.chemdry.com/.