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To meet or not to meet? That is the question people ask as they enter a conference room or virtual meeting where, when all is said and done, more is said than done. From tribal times, we would meet around a fire and share the important information of the day. The problem is that meetings are no longer about just sharing useful information. 

According to Cleverism, there are about 11 million meetings held every day. The average middle manager spends 35% of their time in meetings. As they advance, they may spend as much as 50% of their time in meetings. This a lot of time, especially when you consider that 37% of meetings are considered to be adding no value to the company. With all of this wasted time, it becomes difficult to focus on what is essential.

New tools have been developed that allow us to communicate easier. Communication apps such as WhatsApp and Slack enable team members to communicate in real-time as information is needed rather than bringing the entire team together to work on a particular detail.

One of the biggest wastes of time at meetings is the status update. While many leaders believe status updates are the best way to spread themselves across multiple projects, it does the opposite. Teams are waiting for feedback, approval, or wisdom and change their updates based on the reaction to the last report. Updates can also be negatively disruptive because last-minute ideas and changes waste much of the time the team has already expended.

Rather than having full team meetings, try holding one-on-one meetings with your team. These allow for feedback to discuss decisions that team members made. Leaders learn the thought process behind those decisions, and they feel empowered, giving their work more purpose. It’s also an opportunity to provide specific praise (remember, not everyone wants accolades in front of a crowd).

One of the best ways to make meetings effective is to make sure someone is responsible for the structure, flow, and output of every session. This means you need a facilitator who tracks time, sticks to the agenda, and enforces any rules the team has developed. It would help if you also had a recorder or scribe to take notes about the interactions, questions, action items, and resolutions from the meeting.

While many organizations would benefit from fewer meetings, they are still relevant. If you would like to learn more ways to make meetings more valuable and interesting, you may want to look at http://www.liberatingstructures.com/.

Know that human beings crave to be connected. Sharing the same space with others occasionally, matters. Rather than treating meetings as social free for all, let the purpose and intention dictate the structure. Some should work with our human nature allowing us to bring out our best work.

Coordination and shared consciousness in a complex system require high bandwidth forums for sharing information; this includes meetings. Remember, uncertainty is built into all meetings. Overpreparing and holding too tight to the control may lead to missing what is important. Take the time to make sure your meetings are valuable–and thrive.

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