Studies show that meetings fill an increasing number of hours in the average workday yet, according to most employees, they are responsible for more wasted time than office politics, social media or chatting with co-workers. This is sobering in light of a 1996 whitepaper by MCI called “Meetings in America” which reported there were 13 million business meetings a day in the USA. Today, that is likely a much bigger number.
But meetings are also a necessary part of any business. They can help people share information, see the bigger picture and find novel ways to collaborate and problem solve. From a simple team building perspective, meetings can provide people with time together; time to get to know one another and build a shared history. With a bit of planning, your meetings will leave employees with a sense of shared purpose and clarity around how best to tackle the job at hand.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article: Run Meetings That Are Fair to Introverts, Women, and Remote Workers, Renee Cullinan discusses the lost opportunities leaders and teams experience when they unconsciously create a meeting environment that is not inclusive to all participants.
Introverts are often overlooked and unheard from in a typical noisy and free flowing team meetings. The extroverts, who talk to think, do not provide the time or the opportunity for the introverts, who think to talk, to process, think about and to respond. The introverts are then labeled as unengaged or less knowledgeable and as a result underutilized and undervalued in meetings.
Conference calls are notoriously unproductive and provide a breeding ground for multi-tasking, day dreaming, and disengagement. On most conference calls there are only a few active participants and the rest merely ‘listen’. As a reality of businesses with geographically separated team members, a leader must focus on strategies to make the dreaded conference call engaging and to provide strategies to encourage full participation for all participants.
Whether you like to admit it or not women still struggle in today’s workplace. Countless studies have shown that women are more likely to be interrupted in a meeting or to have their ideas taken less seriously. In fact a taxonomy of terms such as “manterrupting”, “mansplaining”, and “bropropriating” has emerged to identify common meeting behaviours.
As a leader you are tasked with getting the most from your teams and running a productive meeting is a critical tool you use. When you are deliberate and design a meeting to include all team members equally you can realize much greater gains.