There has never been such an incredible amount of wasted time as there are in meetings!!!  Bar none!!! 

It’s astonishing how meetings have become the working norm – all day long people think it’s perfectly acceptable business to fill their days with meetings!  I just can’t understand it!  How can anyone get real, constructive work done if day after day after day people spend almost their entire working day in meetings. 

The answer – you can’t!  You can’t be productive and be in meetings all day – it’s impossible! 

Now if your job description said one thing and only one thing – “attend meetings” then yes, that would be the expectation of the job.  I’ve never seen a job description that had just that one line in it – have you?

Then why is it that people find it okay to be in meetings most of the working hours and that their bosses think it’s okay too!  Of course, their bosses are likely in meetings all day too so meetings beget meetings, I guess. 

When does the real work get done?  When does the job description get fulfilled?

I’ll tell you a little story which will give you an idea about good time and meeting management.   I worked in health for a while.  This is an industry that is notorious for “meetings all day long”.  And so it was.  I was shocked to find how many meetings I was expected to attend, how long each one was and how so little got accomplished.  Here’s the clincher – everyone complained how many meetings there were and how little time they all had to get things done yet no one did anything about it!  They were also exhausted at the end of each day!  I couldn’t see the logic in this kind of “meeting mania”.

One day, we got a new Director for community health.  This woman was impeccable – her hair was perfect, her dress was ideal, her manners were well honed and she smiled.  Her desk was always well organized and yet her office expressed an artistic bent – quite a combination! 

When she came on board, she sat with each one of her Managers individually.  When it came to my turn, she asked me what I would change.  Meetings.  That’s what I would change.  She attended all the meetings at first and made no comment.

Very soon, new agendas came out – with a start time, an end time and . . . more importantly, an allotment of time for each topic on the agenda.  Managers were expected to send out to all attendees a short paragraph of the issue for discussion, proposed outcomes or suggested approaches.  All managers were expected to come prepared which meant having all their supporting documentation with them in order to waste the least amount of time discussing the issue and complete in the allotted time.  If it wasn’t finished, it went to the next meeting.  However, there were only two chances to come to a conclusion on any isuse – it wouldn’t drag on for weeks, months and years as some issues had in the past.

She expected Managers to spend most of their time managing – what a novel idea!!!  In the health industry, it was a novel idea!  (I’ve worked in big business too and this is not just an “illness” of the health industry – some big businesses also “swamp” themselves in meetings)  And she watched the time that was spent in meetings by each of her Managers –  all Managers had to report on all their meetings they attended, the purpose of the meeting, the outcomes and the time taken for each meeting – in very short report!  She set time deadlines for all meetings.

It was amazing how much work got done!  Managers actually had the time to manage, supervise, improve processes and procedures and gain much more job satisfaction. 

She was truly amazing!  Not only did the business get done, issues resolved and time saved but she was making a difference to the clients who were being served.  Her focus was utilizing time effectively as she did with her own time.  She had everything in her life planned and executed to maximize every moment.   When she retired, she put up a consulting shingle – and found success there too!   She was truly a model executive – we have so few!

I’ll always remember her.  In an industry frought with inefficiency and ill use of time, she brought a fresh approach to a stale environment.  The benefits were enormous for all concerned.

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