Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

When it comes to meetings, make them count

RECOMMENDED READING


Loathed almost universally, meetings gobble up time like ravenous tapeworms and often seem as productive as standing in soup. And yet they persist, as if our hatred only makes them stronger.

"We have failed as a culture because we've come to accept that meetings are just inherently bad," said Patrick Lencioni, president of the Table Group, a California-based management consulting firm, and author of the awesomely named book Death by Meeting. "We're spending our time at meetings talking about things that aren't important, and that's crazy."

Lencioni said meetings tend to be rambling and unfocused, a hodgepodge of missions stretched out over a two-hour slog. They should be more focused and put in better context.

First, a meeting should include only the people who absolutely need to be there. There's no reason to bring the whole staff to a meeting unless it's about something the whole staff needs to hear, and even then, perhaps an email will suffice.

Next, he suggests breaking meetings up into four formats. Have a daily, five-minute huddle with your team members, just for a lightning-fast update on what everyone's doing. No sitting down, just a quick chat.

Once a week, have a 45- to 90-minute meeting with the whole team.

"Spend five or 10 minutes at the beginning of that meeting going over the critical elements of your business, then put together a real-time agenda for the rest of the meeting based on the most important things that need to be addressed," Lencioni said. "You only talk about the most relevant things. If somebody raises some huge topic, say, 'It's too big to talk about right now.' "

Those longer-term issues get discussed in strategic meetings held once a month or as needed.

The fourth format Lencioni uses is an off-site meeting once a quarter: "That's where you step back, get away from the office, take a breath and re-evaluate how you're doing. Even just a couple hours or a half-day; it could be at a hotel nearby or a restaurant. 'How are we doing? Is our strategy still right? How are we operating as a team?' "

What I like about this "four formats" approach is it gives everyone an idea of what meetings are going to be like, and it gives each type of meeting a purpose.

Alison Green, a career-advice columnist at AskAManager.org, believes calling meetings has become a knee-jerk reaction, one that sometimes reflects laziness on the part of managers. "There are lots of people in a lot of offices where, inexplicably, the default reaction is, 'We need to have a meeting about this,' " Green said. "And it's just not often the case. You could pick up the phone and talk to someone for three minutes and deal with it. Or just send an email. If it's just to convey information, you probably don't need to haul everyone into a room."

The first of her suggestions for improving meetings is: Pause before you request one. Make sure a gathering is necessary.

The remaining keys include always have an agenda, open the meeting with a clear statement of what you're there to accomplish, stick to the agenda, be ruthless about starting and ending on time, and have a clear "owner" of the meeting.

"The owner of the meeting has to be someone who's assertive, a person who isn't concerned about making everyone feel good," Green said. "That person needs to keep the meeting directed, cut people off who are rambling and make sure the meeting's goals are met before the time is up."

By taking these steps, workers know meetings will be focused, limited and productive. That can certainly lessen the dread.

For final thoughts, I turned to Web personality Meeting Boy, an anonymous figure who unleashes funny and insightful meeting-related rants at MeetingBoy.com.

In a tweet, he summed up the cyclical madness of meetings: "I have 4 meetings today, and then later, no doubt, one with my boss about how I'm not getting anything done."

One of his primary suggestions for improving office life is to eliminate "status meetings," in which workers update the boss on what he or she is doing. Everyone ends up spending an hour in a meeting, when they could have each just spent five minutes conveying their information via email or in a quick one-on-one with the boss.

Meeting Boy offers these "Four Steps for a Successful Meeting":

1. Have an agenda.

2. Send it out ahead of time.

3. Stick to it.

4. Don't invite me.

Comments

Parents, children welcome downsized MOSI in Tampa

TAMPA — Avery, 6, slid his sneakers up the side of 200-pound rubber tire from the space shuttle Columbia and sat on top.His father, Ilder Jeannot, called for him to get off of it — usually climbing on museum displays is frowned upon. But in the new M...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Friday...
Published: 11/17/17
Apple will postpone release of  HomePod

Apple will postpone release of HomePod

The Washington PostApple said Friday that it’s pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year.The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart s...
Published: 11/17/17
HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and ...
Published: 11/17/17
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Published: 11/17/17
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Published: 11/17/17
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Published: 11/17/17
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Published: 11/17/17
Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

TAMPA — The two biggest trends in the automotive space are ones you’ve likely heard of: electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Both will feature prominently at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show today through Sunday. The event at the ...
Published: 11/17/17
Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cott...
Published: 11/17/17