Stuck in a Morass of Meetings? We've Got 5 Tips To Make Them More Effective

Tanya Pinto
Stuck in a Morass of Meetings? We've Got 5 Tips To Make Them More Effective

Think of a company meeting and you’ll probably envision an amusing scenario; employees pretending to listen while their minds slip into daydreaming, some creating masterpiece doodles as they take stray notes, while a bombastic senior executive waffles on about how to make the company extraordinary.

However, team meetings can be much more than this. Most high-performing businesses take their team meetings very seriously and use innovative approaches to make them effective. If you want to know more about using team meetings to boost your company’s productivity, check out the following five tips: 

Make hierarchy invisible: One of the biggest obstacles to effectiveness is encouraging hierarchy during meetings. Google is one of the best examples of hierarchy-free meetings, and its employees regularly rate it as one of the world’s best companies to work for. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin attend the company’s weekly all-hands meeting on Fridays, and are easily accessible to literally any Google employee who has a question for them. Besides allowing expertise to be shared in a better way, hierarchy-free meetings also boost the organization’s transparency. It allows employees to feel more valued and motivated. It’s no wonder Google is highly productive as a business; it focuses more on people and less on hierarchy. 

Yes to technology, no to distraction: As popularly known, the technology stalwart Steve Jobs forbade his own children from using iPhones or iPads when at home. The reason? Though Steve Jobs himself created innovative tech products, he knew the gadgets could compromise on social interaction. At the workplace, use the same approach: adopt technologies which allow employees to communicate better with each other, such as attend a meeting remotely or sharing presentations – but deter the individual use of phones, laptops, or iPads if it doesn’t help the employee to contribute better to the meeting. 

Decentralize power: If you dominate your team members, sooner or later, they’ll become disengaged from their job. According to PwC, people leave managers, not their jobs. Employees today want to be trusted with setting their own work goals, having their opinion recognized, and receiving feedback from seniors. All of this should reflect in a team meeting- don’t reduce employees to powerless units who have to obey your work instructions. A productive meeting is one that empowers your team. 

Don’t have rigidly predetermined notions: It’s important to prepare for a meeting, but remain open to the final outcome. Don’t subconsciously decide how the meeting is going to proceed, and then steer employee opinions according to what you have already decided is best for the business. Let data and employee experiences speak about how the company is doing, and encourage a fair and open discussion throughout the meeting. This being said, it’s important to have a clear goal for the meeting, especially if an important decision has to be made. Clearly mention what the intention of the meeting is, and arbitrate the meeting in an unbiased way to ensure that finally, the goal of the meeting has been achieved. In simple words: facilitate common decision making, don’t make the decisions only by yourself.  

Everyone should have a voice: In An Everyone Culture, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey expertly state, “people are not only means but also ends in themselves.” Most organizations today view their employees as a way to get a certain job or goal completed. This is counterproductive to profitability, as it’s proven by Kegan and Lahey’s research that ‘pursuing profitability and human growth emerges as one thing.’ In a meeting, encourage all employees to share their experiences, thoughts and ideas, and allow this to shape the course of business decisions. One of the most effective ways of getting everyone to contribute is to ask them to write down their ideas and then speak about them one-by-one – a technique common in retrospectives and brainstorming – which mitigates the tendency for meetings to revolve around the loudest person in the room. 

Key takeaways: Meetings can become more productive when hierarchy is eliminated, employees feel empowered enough to share their experiences, technology is harnessed to improve group communication and leaders don’t dominate the outcome to suit their own agenda. 

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