Do you often feel like you’re spending all of your time in meetings and not getting any “actual work” done? You’re not alone. Many managers struggle with this, leading to reduced productivity, poor decision-making, and employee disengagement. But is spending all day in meetings universally bad? How much time should managers spend in meetings? And how can managers balance meeting time with other tasks to increase their output and effectiveness? Let’s explore.
1. Output of a manager
There are lots of opinions and research regarding this. I am a fan of the late Andy Grove and what he described in “High output management“.
“A manager’s output = the output of his organization + the output of the neighboring organization under his influence.”
The output of a manager is measured by the results they produce, not by the number of hours they work. To be effective, managers need to focus on achieving output that aligns with the organization’s goals. For example, as the Global B2B Media Operation lead, I am responsible to work across the practices to elevate paid-media campaign delivery excellence & effectiveness – across both Brand & Performance – to generate incremental business growth for our client. I work closely with other teams, such as the client service team, strategy team, media team and analytics team, to ensure we meet the client’s business objectives. Achieving output requires a balance between meeting time and other tasks that contribute to achieving results.
2. Could managers achieve their targets without meetings?
The common sense answer is probably not. As a manager, you need to brief your team on what is required, allocate projects/tasks to them and work with other teams. All of these require some form of interaction, i.e., informal or formal meetings. Some meetings are generally considered essential or productive, such as project kick-off meetings, weekly team check-ins, and performance reviews.
There are many types of meetings that a manager could have:
- One-to-one with his team members? with his manager?
- Team/department meeting?
- Inter-department meeting?
- Company meeting?
- External client meetings: there could be so many subtypes here.
- Brainstorming meeting
- Informal/casual 10-15 minute unplanned catch-up/huddle?
- Personal development review meeting
3. The problem of over-meeting
Many managers spend too much time in meetings, which can lead to frustration and inefficiency. But not all meetings are created equal. Some meetings are essential, while others are not. It’s important to understand the value exchange of different meeting types and to proactively prepare for meetings that you should set up/attend. To avoid over-meeting, it takes courage to say no to meetings that you shouldn’t attend or to cancel meetings that you set up if you don’t feel they will be meaningful. Common reasons for over-meeting include a lack of clear communication, disorganized meeting structures, or the tendency to hold meetings as a default response to any issue.
A survey done by Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science, psychology, and management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, showed that bad meetings can cost big corporations $100M/year in the US.
Perhaps a meeting best practice/guide would be useful?
4. Guidelines for Effective Meetings
To ensure that meetings are effective, managers should follow these guidelines:
- Define the purpose of the meeting and state it in the meeting invite or at the beginning of the meeting.
- Determine the expected outcomes and share them with the attendees. Do this at the beginning of the meeting.
- Allocate enough time to meet the objective but don’t rush it.
- Invite only those who need to be there and consider whether you need a professional facilitator for certain types of meetings.
- Determine the format of the meeting and provide attendees with any necessary materials in advance.
- Could it be a 5 mins chat over the water cooler? A walk around the block? A formal recurring meeting in a meeting room with proper equipment?
- Establish an agenda and let attendees know what they need to prepare before the meeting.
- Be aware of human needs, such as attention span and restroom breaks.
- Use a “parking lot” to capture unrelated issues or too many issues that are presented.
- Practice, practice, practice, and ask attendees for feedback to improve the meetings in the future.
Spending all day in meetings may not be universally bad, but it can lead to frustration and inefficiency if not managed properly. Effective managers need to balance meeting time with other tasks to achieve output that aligns with the organization’s goals. To do this, they should follow the guidelines for effective meetings and be proactive in managing their time. By saying no to meetings that are not relevant, managers can free up time for tasks that contribute to achieving results. By using these strategies, managers can increase their effectiveness and achieve their goals.
If you are interested in my writing about leadership and team management, check out this Leadership section on my blog.