Feared by grown men, difficult to control, expensive to keep, yet impossible to kill—the in-house business meeting. For all the precious earning time spent in meetings, in many companies they have yet to shake off their reputation as dreaded time-wasters.
The Muse reports that for middle managers, around 35% of their time is spent in meetings. For upper management, it’s more likely 50%! Executives cannot afford to waste time, yet they spend so much of it in meetings. Why are they so essential?
George N. Root III explains that “the purpose of a business meeting is to address issues that affect company operations and productivity. Those issues could be positive, or they could be challenges that threaten to affect profitability.” That really just tells us to make sure every meeting is relevant.
The modern workplace has changed. Much of what we accomplish is done by a team—and team members must communicate. But the communication needs to start well before the meeting is convened.
Well in advance, clearly set out what is to be communicated, by whom, and to whom. Do you expect the team members to contribute information? Or is this meeting simply to inform them? Are you setting goals for the coming period? Or reviewing past performance? Preparing for upcoming challenges? The team members need to know what to expect.
Here are four very good reasons to hold a business meeting:
1. Resolve conflicts
Tom Jamison, Connecticut Business Centres, writes that “problems and issues … can negatively affect the way employees do their daily tasks. Properly managed meetings can be a venue for team members to share their side of the story. Once a resolution is reached, employees can apply it to other similar situations to avoid repeating the problem.”
2. Make decisions and plans
If the team makes a decision, or at least has some input into it, they will be more likely to support it going forward. Empowering them like this gives them a vested interest in a good outcome. Even if the final decision is unpopular, you’ll have an idea of how each member is thinking.
3. Communicate decisions that have already been made
Some things will always be decided by the board, and later communicated to the team members. If you do this in a meeting, you can better gauge the response. Is the company taking a new direction? You want the team to be supportive, so a meeting with opportunities for questions will tell you if they need any further clarification. A mass email won’t do that for you.
4. Reinforce the value of the team members
Jamison adds, “As a team leader, you can explain to your team members how their tasks contribute to the overall goal. When tasks and goals are clear, employees are more motivated to work because they realise their importance in the company.”
There are many more legitimate reasons for calling a workplace meeting. But they should not be about what we did last weekend, or our plans for next weekend. You can avoid that by ensuring that the purpose of every meeting is clearly stated upfront. If it looks like the only reason to have a meeting is that you always have a meeting on Wednesday, then skip it.