Are you the problem with the meetings you run? Like it or not, meeting participants are likely to blame you for wasting their time.
Rick Broida, writing for PCworld
, cites 7 out of 10 workers who spend two hours or more per day in meetings.
Lisa McKale in Resourceful Manager
says that 40% of workers think meetings waste time, 67% spend two to four hours per week getting ready for meetings, and 70% say meetings don’t help them get work done.
Remember: there is always an opportunity cost to business meetings.
In economics, an opportunity cost represents a choice, and that choice eliminates an alternative. In short, when people spend their time doing something unproductive, they cannot do something more productive.
There are at least five ways you can plan, prepare, and lead a team meeting:
- Start on time. Meeting participants hate it when meetings don’t start as scheduled. They find it disrespectful and dismissive of their value.
Allow for two starts. The meeting must start religiously at an official scheduled time. But, an effective Customer Success Manager would put five minutes at the front of the agenda for greetings and chatter before the meat of the meeting starts.
- Pick the right people. People attend so many meetings; they often sit in on the wrong one. Sometimes, they don’t belong there because they are not a productive fit.
Select members with some plan. Maybe you need their skillset or creativity. Maybe you have seen them work and contribute elsewhere. But, to the extent you have control over the membership, pick the best talent and try to match them with team needs.
For example, if you are dealing with change, you want to include those whom the change will impact. If the team must solve a problem, bring in the innovators, collaborators, and problem solvers.
Split the meeting in two. The first part of the meeting will address the larger group. The second part will deal with a more specific topic where a smaller group can attend.
For example: My wife, who’s a Human Resources Manager, and a few of her colleagues, leave after the first part of the weekly Management Meeting, so the smaller group can discuss the Product Roadmap, a topic that is relevant for less people in the company.
Remember: if people lack interest in the meeting, the outcome will waste the time.
- Sharpen the agenda. Participants need an agenda with the start and end times and topics covered.
Meeting members expect you to stick to the agenda and take action when individuals dominate the discussion or disregard the agenda.
If you prepared the agenda, you must manage it.
- Start the agenda with a clearly framed objective. The meeting needs a purpose, even if it’s a regular weekly meeting. And, if the meeting does not accomplish that objective, the time is wasted.
- Draw a timeline that assigns specific minutes to each speaker or topic.
- Inform those speakers in advance of your expectations in terms of content and time allotted.
- Provide all members with agenda in advance and require a response and acceptance.
- Project the agenda on a screen or monitor where facilities permit.
- Close meeting with brief remarks on how well the meeting followed the agenda and what might be done to correct weaknesses before next meeting.
Sometimes breaks need to be given spontaneously during a meeting. Try to gauge your audience, and “feel” whether a break is needed.
- Go low-tech. The possession of tablets, laptops, PDAs, and smartphones will distract members from the agenda and from willing and active participation.
If you are in the position to do so, you might prohibit members from bringing devices to meetings. If that’s not possible, as team leader, you can still establish very restrictive guidelines on use and abuse.
Understand the difference between managing the meeting and facilitating the meeting.
The meeting manager will prepare schedules, will communicate with the participants before the meeting, and will create a productive agenda. Customer Success Managers will tell you that “facilitation” refers to creation of an environment that encourages participation and continuity. On many occasions, you might fill both positions, but make sure you understand the difference, and how to do both effectively.
What you can do is use meeting software that everyone shares and feeds into. Projected on a shared monitor, all participants can see their respective work. (I know one manager who makes excellent use of tech supported audio-visuals to hold attention.)
- Take charge. Meeting attendees often complain that meetings go nowhere fast. They don’t get to hear from the people who have something to contribute. Or, the people who take over the meeting have nothing important or useful to say.
Remember: treating people equally is not the same as treating them the same.
You have no obligation to let everyone speak for equal amounts of time. There is nothing productive in one or two speakers dominating the time.
So, establish ground rules on participation early in the team’s formation and hold members to those guidelines.
Be proactive about sticking to the agenda, and staying on course.
Making Customer Success Management work –
As a Customer Success Manager or Team leader you must create a climate where meetings work. That climate should welcome and encourage active participation and make members comfortable enough to feedback and challenge. But, you must also keep the meeting performance productive, effective, and aligned with specific business goals.
Carson Tate, writing for The New York Times, warns
, “The meeting culture that is dominating corporate America is unsustainable and unproductive. How many meetings did you attend last week that didn’t even have an agenda? How many resulted in a new idea? And at how many meetings did you think, “Why am I even here?”
Inc.com cites overall numbers
: “Each day, 11 million meetings take place in the United States, or 2.6 billion in a year. Based on an average salary of $30 per hour, the U.S. spends $80 billion on meetings each year.”
If Customer Success Managers want to reverse this damage they have two choices. They can learn to plan, prepare, and run meetings. Or, they can narrow objectives so well that they can be achieved without a meeting.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this article, where I’ll include a sample Agenda…
Also, feel free to share ideas that worked for you in this matter.