Make your next meeting matter

How being engaged in the process can pay off in effective, efficient workplace meetings

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BERKELEY, Calif. Jan. 21, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Only about half of all work meetings are considered productive, according to a recent survey. We can’t go on meeting like this.

The [popup url=”https://www.wrike.com/” height=”800″ width=”800″ scrollbars=”0″]Wrike Work Management Survey[/popup] polled 1,464 professionals in Canada and the United States and found that, too often, meetings are unproductive, unhappy and stressful.

While 35 per cent of professionals attend six or more meetings a week, 46 per cent leave meetings without a clear understanding of the next action item. Workers also listed these big meeting-related stressors: missing information needed to complete projects and a lack of established priorities.

Among those unhappy with their company’s management process, the number of people who attend at least six meetings a week jumped to 40 per cent from 35.

I recently spoke with Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of project management service provider Wrike, to get his top tips for making workplace meetings more effective and efficient.

Carol Kinsey Goman: You must hate going to meetings!

Andrew Filev

Andrew Filev: A lot of people hate meetings, but I actually like them. Not just any meeting though; I like meetings that involve the right people who are well prepared, are focused on solving a problem, and where people engage with a sense of purpose. One way to make meetings matter is to first think through exactly when and why you need them – and do this every time you attend or create one.

Goman: I have a preference for face-to-face interaction, but I know we are in an increasingly technologically-connected world.

Filev: Yes, in fact we’re now so habitually focused on electronic communication that people use it as a default even when a face-to-face meeting would get the job done better. It doesn’t make sense to labour over something through email if you can reconcile it in person. Working a problem out on a white board for 10 minutes is much faster than turning the same conversation into a three-day email thread.

Goman: Face-to-face does put a greater burden on the leader, though, because the influence of nonverbal cues is so strong.

Filev: When you’re a CEO or leader in a meeting, people watch how you act more closely. Anything you say or do can change the tone, so you need to have a thoughtful, consistent presence. This can include your posture and body language, and the quality of questions and contributions you bring. If you appear skeptical, then a good idea may get shot down. If you appear enthusiastic, a bad idea may get implemented.

Goman: What is your top tip for making meetings more productive?

Filev: A lot of whether a meeting is productive or not boils down to presence. If attendees are actually mentally present and engaged, a joint sense of purpose will emerge much faster. People shouldn’t be checking their phones or answering emails. Whether or not someone is present is obvious to everyone else and it can suck the energy out of the room.

Goman: One member of a management team told me of senior executive who is constantly on his smart phone during meetings. It’s obvious he’s not tracking the conversation because he keeps asking questions that have already been responded to. When he does contribute, he has no credibility.

Filev: If look at a photograph of a meeting, you’d probably be able to tell right away who was present mentally and who wasn’t. It’s in their posture, and their eye contact and participation.

Goman: So how can I improve my presence?

Filev: By being well prepared, giving others in the room your complete attention, and asking questions. Even if you’re not the leader of the group, what you do as a contributor can change the tone.

Goman: This sounds a lot like mindfulness.

Filev: What mindfulness means to me … is awareness of what you’re feeling and the ability to diagnose why. Mindfulness also applies to an awareness of physiology. We all lose energy or get grouchy when we’re hungry or tired, even if we don’t notice it. A recent study found that a group of judges decisions’ were directly affected by the time that has passed after their last meal.

Goman: This is also why body language is so important – because your intentions and emotions tend to leak in a variety of nonverbal cues.

Filev: Being able to step back and examine what you’re feeling is critical … it will be displayed in your body language whether you mean to or not. … We can control our appearance and our temperament, and focus on making meaningful and deliberate contributions.

Troy Media columnist Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an executive coach, consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. Carol is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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