What If?

What If? December 20, 2022

As we close in on 2023, and our respective planning processes are coming to an end…for now at least. I thought it would be beneficial to share some thoughts on the topic of meetings.

Elon Musk has a notable set of policies around meetings, what to do and what not to do. I encourage you to look them up. I’ve certainly had a lot of meetings over the past 50 years and have learned a thing or two. Here are some thoughts that might prompt a change in how you go about yours.

Don’t Go: As the supreme commander of your enterprise, consider what might happen were you not to show up for a meeting? Typically, you all have at least monthly staff meetings…many of you weekly. In my experience, these are the sessions where the doctor talks and the staff listen. In my opinion, these are not very productive events. The staff doesn’t develop the independent thinking and problem-solving skills with you in the room. They look to you for leadership, instead of developing their leadership skills. It’s a rare practice where open debate takes place; where the staff will challenge the doctor. If that is your culture, good for you.

But consider what might happen if you didn’t show up. What might go differently were you to meet with your office manager, discuss your respective agenda items and your desired outcomes…whether for that specific meeting or a series of meetings? And then let the manager handle the meeting. Would you manager develop new skills? Would your staff be more open and have more effective discussion? Would outcomes be better received and more effectively executed? Try it…I think you’ll be surprised with the result.

Cut meeting times in half. A few years ago, I began a quest to reduce my time in meetings. I’ve found that most of the time, anything over 30 minutes is a waste. Prepare, get to the point, and get out. Time truly is money. Donna McGeorge, author of The 25 Minute Meeting: Half the Time, Double the Impact says, “People aren’t conscious about them, It’s become a default way of operating. When a problem emerges, that first instinct is to go to a meeting. People aren’t prepared, and then they feel obliged to invite a cast of thousands.”

In many cases, meetings don’t need to happen at all, and the information shared could have been sent in an email. “There’s so many different ways you can share information, depending on how clever you are,” says McGeorge. “You can use email or tools like Slack, where you can run polls, get opinions, and send video clips. So many things don’t take up nearly as much time as six people within a meeting.”

Elon Musk says “walk out of meetings or calls as soon as it’s obvious that you’re not adding value. It is not rude to leave, it’s rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

Discuss the Implications. Many decisions are made in a vacuum. Let’s do this or that. Here’s how. Here’s the plan. Let’s go! No where in your discussion have you explored unintended consequences. If we change this over here, what impact will it have over there? Exploring implications as well as opportunities opens the door to additional creativity. Looking at the risks is often the key to breakthrough thinking.

Want a great exercise. Calculate the cost of a meeting. If you have 6 staff members in a meeting for an hour, and their average fully burdened wage is $22 an hour, then you’re spending $132 to have that meeting. If the meeting is held weekly, that’s a $7000 annual investment. Are you gaining 2-3x that in value from the meeting?

As one gets older, Time rapidly joins health as one’s most important asset. As we head off for the holiday season, consider what you might do differently in the coming year to gain time. Time for bigger picture thinking. Time for family. Time for you. My gift for you this Christmas is the gift of reflection.

Happy Holidays to all. May your holiday be filled with joy and celebration…and reflection.

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