The Secretary Of The Department Of Education called me to the state capitol for what was assuredly a crucial meeting at 2:00 pm. Canceling a few other appointments while making the 2-hour drive, I nibbled the last of my convenience store hot dog in the parking garage before making my way past security. A quick side trip to the bathroom and then laid my rear into the plush leather chair while admiring the sheen on the imposing faux-oak conference table. It was 1:50 pm.
Then I waited.
And I waited.
At 2:10 one of the Undersecretaries arrived and was about to apologize for her lateness until she saw I was the sole occupant of the room. Over the next 5 minutes the rest wandered in and thus we sat until Madam Secretary graced us with her presence at 2:25. By this time I felt the need to pee once more.
The meeting was supposed to finish by three o’clock. We finally adjourned at 3:45. Thus was my experience with another crappy meeting.
According to research, anywhere from one-third to one-half of time spent in business meetings is mostly unproductive. This is critical because the time spent in meetings has almost doubled over the past three decades.
So what kills productivity? Research suggests that the #1 meeting killer is Starts Late and Runs Long.
Your most effective team members know how to manage their time. They will be there on the hour. The less capable lose control of their calendar and will arrive late. Therefore delaying the start of your punishes your most productive people to accommodate your least useful.
Then there’s the trouble on the back end.
They tell you a meeting will last but an hour ending at 11:00 am. We all have this great piece of software between our ears which immediately programs this information into our mind clock. Thus at 11:01 our brain begins to disengage from the meeting to move on to our next task. The drop off at the appointed hour is incredible. If your session runs 10 minutes long, 80% of the participants will be disengaged by the end.
So if you are running a meeting, the easiest way to boost its productivity and engagement is by starting and ending on time. Even if it means not all the players are there at the outset. Even if it means the agenda has unfinished business at closing time. The discipline of commencing and concluding promptly sends the message that you mean business.
In 2005, Michael created The H.O.T.T. Meeting as a way for leaders to raise their professional profile by becoming known for running great meetings.
photo credit: GraphicStock