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How expensive is your meetings habit?

How expensive is your meetings habit?

by Moyra Mackie on July 19, 2013

How much of your working week is spent in meetings?

If you are at all average – and I don’t mean that as an insult – at least 50% of your calendar will be taken up with meetings, whether in person or on the phone.

How effective are your meetings?

Though precise calculations of time – and therefore salary hours – spent in unproductive meetings are hard to calculate, one UK study estimates around £26bn ($40bn) is wasted each year in unproductive meetings.

What does each of your meetings cost?

I always encourage my clients to do the following calculation:

Number of meeting participants  x  number of hours spent talking  x average hourly salary of participants  ÷  actions agreed  =  cost  of meeting

Do this and you might discover that an awful lot of meetings are pretty expensive habits.

So where is the senior management memo on improving the ROI of meetings?


I know many companies who regularly implement travel bans to cut costs but I don’t know of any who have banned meetings as a way of saving money and improving motivation and productivity.

Why do we need meetings?

The only purpose of a meeting should be to produce an outcome that depends on team effort. Meetings should be about a combination of sharing information and diverse perspectives, building relationships and getting commitment.

Why do meetings fail?

The number one reason for meetings failing is that the people leading and attending fail to accept that the meeting is the second step in a three step process:

  • Preparation
  • Meeting
  • Action

These three steps are not separable or negotiable if you want to spend your time wisely and really achieve something.

Meetings are not a substitute for action.  They should be a forum for meaningful decision-making, or engagement on key information from the team or senior management that will need passing on.

Effective meetings need leaders not managers

Peter Hawkins in Creating a Coaching Culture, explicitly makes the link:

“One of the most important shifts necessary for a team leader is to realize the difference between managing their team and leading it.  [a manager tries to] supervise all the individual team members and hold onto the responsibility for connecting and integrating the separate contributions.  This causes team meetings to be a series of ‘individuals reporting in to the boss’.  When they become a team leader, they are more like the orchestrator of the collective team activities, encouraging the team to work together to address the key challenges and issues and to be mutually accountable for the collective goals, not just their individual objectives.  This transition requires them to be able to coach the team.”

Use a CLEAR model to get the most out of meetings

Peter Hawkins created the CLEAR model as a method of group coaching, which has proven highly effective when used by leaders in team, board and project meetings.

CLEAR stands for:

Contract

Start with a clear agreement on what you as a group want to achieve. What will success look like? How are you going to get there?

Listen

Get all the issues and challenges into the open. Make sure all perspectives, hopes, and fears are heard before moving forward.

Explore

Make sure that a rich team dialogue is generated that produces genuinely new critical thinking. You may wish to use a model like De Bono’s Thinking Hats to make sure that you are considering new options, not just rubber stamping old ways of doing things.

Act

Agree what action is to be taken and make sure the group is committed. Agree who will do what, by when and what kind of support might be needed.

Review

Finish with a recap and appreciation of what worked and went well and what could be improved next time.

What would it take to have a meeting according to this model?

The model requires self-discipline and self-control. But so do leaders and high-performing teams.

This model requires mutual respect and a desire to really get things done, to think differently, to take action.

So what is stopping you?

For a more comprehensive checklist and more tips and strategies for meetings success, subscribe to the Green Hat community and receive a free download.

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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