6 warning signs you need to repair your meeting systems immediately.

At some point in our career, we’ve all walked away from a meeting thinking this could have been an email. Not only do unnecessary meetings waste valuable time, but they also breathe negativity into company culture. The ability to properly manage meetings is often an overlooked skill, a skill that’s put to the test in virtual settings. As offices shifted to remote work, companies quickly realized that many leaders were ill-prepared to set up remote work environments that were both collaborative and effective. Some teams defaulted to more meetings, believing that less face time meant more screen time. These unstructured meetings create distractions and suffocate productivity.

Meetings are still an integral part of a company’s workflow, bringing ideas to fruition. But the way you meet can hinder or advance the quality and speed of your team’s deliverables. That’s why well-designed meeting systems need to be addressed and thoughtfully curated. So how do you know if your meeting systems are malfunctioning?

Here are a few warning signs that signal your meetings are headed towards a mechanical breakdown.

1. Meetings are scheduled just because.

Your vehicle’s check engine light illuminates when there’s a possible issue with your vehicle. Consider a purposeless meeting your check engine signal radiating at you. Meetings should be designed with a clear goal. Lack of one is a sign that meeting systems need to be readdressed.  One of our mantras at Voltage Control is “No purpose. No meeting.” Without purpose, there is no tangible goal to work toward. Team discussions around a vague objective are wasted time and money. In fact, workday hours and the number of meetings scheduled have both gone up since the pandemic, according to a recent study

Instead of utilizing meetings as a channel to merely check-in, there needs to be defined and measurable goals. Map out your objectives whether it be developing new concepts or arriving at a decision. As soon as the purpose is clear, you can create an agenda equipped with the necessary structure to achieve it.

2. Recurring Monday meetings are on the calendar.

In theory, Monday morning meetings are a great way to start the week off with your team. In reality, Mondays are one of the worst days to hold a meeting, followed closely by Friday afternoons. Data suggests that Tuesday afternoons tend to be the best day and time of the week to meet. Meeting logistics play an important role in effective meeting systems. The when, where, and hows can make or break the efficiency and effectiveness of your meeting. In addition to Zoom, make sure you incorporate relevant collaboration tools like Nutcache or Pastel. Test out the software prior to the meeting so you are familiar with all the features.

3. You get an invite. You get an invite. Everyone gets an invite.

Inviting everyone might feel like a nice thing to do, but it may not be the right thing to do. In fact, it could be detrimental to your participants’ success. Considering the meeting’s purpose (see 1.), invite the participants who will be directly affected by the meeting’s content or who can reasonably contribute to the problem that is being solved. Another strategy is making your meeting optional in certain situations. This ensures that every participant in the room feels that the meeting is relevant to them and that they have something constructive to contribute.

4. Most meetings are all talk, no action.

So often, meetings are filled with ideas and visions that never translate into meaningful action. But what many may lack to acknowledge is that we can all be productive during meetings, not just after. If there is not a clear and tangible “prototype” or idea to flush out and explore, then there is no reason to have a meeting in the first place. Prototypes don’t need to be physical. They can take various forms depending on your objective. A designer could curate a mood board while a sales team could amend lead distribution guidelines. Whatever prototype best fits your needs, plan your meeting to present it and work through its formation with your team.

5. You communicate in one style.

You may sense a typically excellent team member become frustrated or flustered during meetings. This may be a sign of a mismatch in their communication style and how they are being communicated within the moment. It’s human nature to communicate in the style best suited for us. We do so subconsciously. However, for effective meetings to occur, it’s essential to identify and adapt to the communication styles of your participants. While various studies may label communication styles differently, generally individuals fall into four buckets: Personal, Functional, Analytical, and Intuitive.

Understand what your participants respond really well to and what they need extra help with. The communication styles will highlight approaches on sharing feedback, assigning activities, and redirecting focus. In order for each individual participant to have a positive and productive meeting experience, you will need to adjust to the needs of their communication styles. This may mean presenting and collaborating differently than you would naturally.

6. There’s no collection of feedback.

Every team has its unique combinations of personalities and preferences. Therefore, there’s no set meeting systems that will work for everyone. Instead, you must create systems that work best for your entire team. In order to do so, meeting facilitators need to constantly collect feedback from all participants. Rather than hoping people will provide you feedback after the meeting, you need to intentionally design feedback into your meeting systems. 

While we can recognize the importance of debriefs, there is a wrench in this procedure…ego. Many times, the ego gets in the way of building out a constructive feedback loop. We all have moments where we lack sufficient self-awareness. By recognizing when your ego is hindering your growth, you will be able to move forward. Involving your team members’ feedback and improving will also signify to them your desire to be a better leader.

Zen and the Art of Communication Maintenance

If you’ve never audited your meetings before or haven’t since the mass adoption of remote working, it’s crucial that you evaluate your current meeting culture and meeting systems immediately. This may be a good time to hire a consultant or attend a workshop that will properly walk you through a full analysis of your meeting systems.

If you’ve already set up your meeting systems, be sure you are regularly evaluating and fine-tuning. As data grows and the modern workplace evolves, new tools and methods constantly develop. Resources such as the upcoming book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Magical Meetings, will offer you the latest expert recommendations on building functional meeting systems and transforming meeting perceptions. 

To celebrate their much-anticipated book, Douglas Ferguson and John Fitch, authors of Magical Meetings, are hosting a complimentary pre-launch experience on February 1 at 2:30 – 4 p.m. CT. RSVP for the party today and you’ll have an opportunity to snag a copy before it goes on sale everywhere on March 1.