by Steve Adubato, PhD
In the past, this column has explored the keys to holding successful and meaningful meetings. Yet, there are still countless meetings held every day that don't have to be called and are seen by many as a tremendous waste of time. So instead of talking about how to hold more effective meetings, let's look at the meeting issue from a different perspective. Let's ask whether you should hold a meeting at all. With that in mind, don't hold a meeting if…
Don't hold a meeting if all you really want to do is hear yourself talk. We all know managers who hold meetings just to have an audience. Wanting to hear yourself talk is not a good enough reason to call a meeting and those who don't know that pay a heavy price in those around them not taking a leader seriously and zoning out when the meeting is called. This is particularly dangerous when the time comes for a leader to hold a meeting about something really important. He winds up being the boy who cried wolf.
Don't hold a meeting if you can accomplish your goal through a brief conference call or e-mail. Once you call a meeting, the bar has been raised because you are asking people to physically do what they need to do to get to the meeting. To invest time and energy. Take more time up front and explore other avenues to accomplish your goal. More often than not you will find that the telephone and/or e-mail is the more appropriate communication medium.
Don't hold a meeting if all you are looking to do is "rubber stamp" a decision you have already made. If you have no intention of listening to others' point of view or communicating in an open, interactive fashion, then don't insult people by getting them together. Just have the guts to communicate the decision you've made and let them know it is not negotiable and you don't really want their opinion. There is nothing worse than having a meeting leader tell you he or she wants your input when it is clear in the end all they are looking to do is ram something down your throat.
Don't hold a meeting if your real motive is to communicate a certain message to a particular team member that you'd rather not do one on one. Meetings should not use participants as a shield or to camouflage what a leader is really looking to accomplish. First, everyone will know what you are doing and won't appreciate it. Second, such an approach sends a chilling message to employees about how you deal with conflict and what they can expect when and if you have an issue or problem with them.
Don't hold a meeting if your agenda is not clear-cut. This is similar to the first reason identified not to call a meeting, but it goes a step further. This assumes your goal is greater than simply to hear yourself talk, but acknowledges that even with the best of intentions, some meeting leaders are simply not prepared to call a meeting. They haven't thought through a concrete list of items and issues to address and want to believe that an agenda will automatically appear once the meeting is called. The problem is, it doesn't work that way. That's why too many meetings are rambling, unfocused and go on way too long.
Simply put, the vast majority of meetings in the world of work don't need to be called. The most effective leaders and managers respect people's time. If you take this approach, you will get a heck of a lot more out of your team and they will appreciate you for it.