Meetings are what you do

It’s all too easy to bash meetings as a manager. They can eat into your day and make you feel like you haven’t completed any “real” work.

It’s what good leaders do

But what can be more important than speaking with your employees and managers, checking in to make sure all is ok, communicating progress, getting feedback, guiding, advising and basically being a good leader? The reality is that meetings are the best way to actually get your job done – not something that gets in the way of it. Meetings are what leaders do.

This was the conclusion that I came to a while back. For a long time, I tried to avoid scheduling meetings. Statements like “just send me an email” resulted in a drawn out email conversation that probably ended up in a meeting anyway.

Why do I want yet another meeting?

There are a number of important benefits of meetings that cannot be overlooked.

The first of which is improving communications. In Pat Lencioni’s book The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, the author states that communication – or actually over-communication – is one of the most important elements of successful management. There’s no better way to communicate your plans, ideas, or vision than in face to face meetings with your team.

Meetings also allow you to build effective relationships with your staff. Quick catchup meetings that last no more than 15–30 minutes can be an invaluable way to get to know your team better and to hear about issues that may be bubbling far earlier.

Regular meetings where people will need to report on the progress of tasks or projects help build accountability and a culture of performance. Face to face meeting either one to one or in small groups will have far more weight and personal impact than hiding behind emails or written reports.

How to get more from your meetings

To get more from your meetings, you should look to some of the advice provided by Pat Lencioni’s other book – Death by Meeting where he breaks meetings into four types:

  • The Daily Check-In – this is a quick 5–10 minute meeting held at the beginning of each day sort of like a daily scrum. It’s purpose is to get everyone on the same page in terms of priorities and goals for the day.
  • The Weekly Tactical – these are focussed meetings that will last 45 minutes to an hour and are designed to address something that is a short-term priority or concern. They don’t need agendas and should be very restricted in what they will cover. The goal is to resolve issues and agree progress.
  • The Monthly Strategic – these should be for no more than two hours and should be retricted to strategy and future planning goals – “where are we going”, etc. Nothing tactical should be discussed here.

He also suggests a quarterly off-site review meeting.

For me, I like to have daily informal checkins, separate weekly meetings with each of my direct reports, and monthly meetings for different organisational groups – all-hands, operations, delivery, etc.

How to better structure your day

Here’s the important part. I make sure that I schedule meetings in the morning and never (hardly ever) schedule meetings after 2pm. This leaves me with time in the afternoons to do the other parts of my job including admin etc. I also find that afternoon meetings tend to lose the focus and energy compared with those held in the morning.

Paradigm shift

So, my advice is to look at meetings as necessary and beneficial. Don’t see them as an inconveinece. Don’t dread them. Perhaps structure them better and to control your diary better, but add meetings to your job description. It’s what you do.

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