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The cost of meetings

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be meetings.”

- From Sixteen Things that it Took Me 50 Years to Learn, by Dave Barry

Business-people-meetingWe’ve all been there – captive in a meeting that drags on seemingly forever and nothing is accomplished. What is the underlying cause of the meeting failure, and how can it be solved? 

Many meeting leaders are not equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively facilitate a meeting. Similarly, many meeting participants contribute to the problem through their own ineffective meeting skills. 

According to the Wharton Center for Applied Research at the University of Pennsylvania, the average senior executive spends 23 hours each week in meetings. Sadly, senior and middle managers report that a mere 56 percent of meetings are productive and that a phone call or email could replace more than 25 percent of meetings. 

When the resources that are involved in meetings each day are considered alongside of the above statistics, the financial drain to organizations alone is devastating.

Nearly everyone in a professional environment finds themselves, at some time, asked to participate or present in meetings. As careers advance, increased meeting participation (and eventually, meeting leadership) inevitably follows. 

At all levels of organizations, individuals employ state-of-the-art process improvement methodologies to streamline activities and accomplish more with less.  Curiously, and somewhat ironically, these same individuals who strive for maximum productivity in their work activities wrestle with frustration and setbacks caused by unproductive meetings.

Why are meetings unproductive?

  1. Lack of Progress: They are not strategically valuable. There is limited or no progress against a goal.
  1. Lack of Performance: They fail to bring out the best in the people who attend or those who are affected. Relationships are damaged or interpersonal friction is created.

Since meetings are a part of most corporate cultures and are simply viewed as part of business, many people don’t consider the cost of meetings. Interestingly, many people don’t even consider meetings to be part of work. Some people will end a meeting by saying, “Let’s get back to work,” implying that the meeting time was not work. Even less frequently is consideration given to the large advantage available to organizations that use meeting time wisely. 

Meeting leadership skills are some of the easiest changes to make in an organization. However, like most change, an investment of time in building new skills, challenging old habits and implementing new processes requires effort. 

In the next blog, we will focus on several strategies to improve the effectiveness of meetings.

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Website: www.tero.com

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