Do you have too many meetings?

Many of our clients struggle with the topic of  meetings, and that’s a big reason why one of Pluma’s core leadership  competencies is ‘Managing Meetings’. Most clients report that their  calendars are often filled with meetings, leaving little time for them  to do work and manage their teams.

In this context, we look at meetings in two categories:

  1. meetings you lead
  2. meetings you attend

Most  people feel that the meetings they lead are important and necessary,  but given how busy we all are, it can be difficult to make sure others  see it that way, too.

To drive engagement with your meetings consider these tactics:

  • Don’t have the meeting (surprise!) — the  core feature of a meeting is that it is a chance for synchronous  (simultaneous) communication. Whether in person or via phone or video,  ask yourself, is synchronous communication essential to this purpose.  Times when the answer might be ‘yes’ are when external stakeholders are  involved, a debate or discussion needs to happen, you need to drive  interaction between groups, or when an issue is complicated or likely to  create conflict that will be good to address immediately.
An  example of when the answer might be ‘no’ is when you have 30 slides  prepared and you plan to take everyone on the team through them  one-by-one because you are worried that they won’t look at your deck  otherwise. In this scenario, can you send the presentation to  individuals directly and highlight the 2–3 slides that might be  especially important for them to review and comment on? Can you ask them  to get back to you by a specific day with their feedback? Giving  colleagues a specific focus and timeline can prompt them to engage  without requiring them to sacrifice 60 minutes to the cause.
  • Shorten the meeting — just  because 30 minutes and 60 minutes are typical meeting lengths, doesn’t  mean they are optimal timeframes. Try scheduling meetings for 15 or 45  minutes. These shorter segments are likely to encourage people to come  on time, and send a signal of efficiency.
  • Alter the cadence of the meeting — is  this a meeting you have on the books every week? Could it be just as  useful to have it biweekly or once every three weeks? Weekly is often a  default for repeat meetings, but when meetings are scheduled too  frequently, attendees may consistently deprioritize them for more  pressing matters.
  • Categorize some attendees as optional — do  you know who are the ‘must-haves’ and who are the ‘nice-to-haves’ for a  given meeting? Most calendar systems allow you to invite an attendee as  optional, so be sure to take advantage of this feature. This way  colleagues know they are welcome to join, but that that they can be  updated after without feeling like they’ve let you down.
  • Share an agenda — never  schedule a meeting without an agenda. Agendas should be quick bullet  points of what you plan to discuss and accomplish and can be included in  the meeting invite itself. Including an agenda makes sure people come  prepared and lets them know that you are making good use of their time.
  • Take minutes — minutes  can be high-level, but always be sure to capture decisions and next  steps. After a meeting, email the minutes to all invitees so that  everyone is on the same page. Minutes formalize the meeting and are  great for people to refer back to when topics come up in the future.
  • Offer snacks — this is an easy win. Everyone loves snacks.

To deal with meetings you have been invited to, you can use a number of the tips above with adjustments.

  • Ask what time your part will come up — if  it’s a 60 minute meeting, but you’re only needed for the second half,  that’s a great thing to find out. This question can also encourage the  meeting leader to share an agenda since that’s how you will know when  you’re needed.
  • Clarify if you’re needed — are  you a ‘must-have’ attendee or is your presence not necessary? A gentle  way to ask this is “Am I a must-have attendee? I appreciate your invite  and just want to make sure I can add value.”
  • Request an agenda — you  can politely request an agenda without ruffling any feathers by saying  “Just got your invite, trying to prioritize a hectic week and would love  to know what items we’ll be discussing so that I can make sure to come  prepared.”
  • Offer to take minutes — this  is a great way to lead by example and support others within your  organization. Share your minutes with the meeting host so they can  disseminate.

Enough from us! We would love to hear about your meeting management experience and tips and tricks on this 30-second survey. Respondents will receive a report with the results.

Written by

Alexandra Connell

Alexandra Connell is CEO and Co-Founder of Pluma. Prior to starting Pluma, Alexandra held corporate roles across several industries including technology, biotech, and investment management in New York and London. During her role as Chief of Staff at biotech company Solazyme, Alexandra found inspiration for what would ultimately become Pluma. Shortly after IPO, the company was challenged with transition and change. Senior leaders were hired from outside firms. Emerging leaders, who had brought the company to IPO, felt alienated. To preserve a culture of innovation and flexibility, Solazyme needed to upskill and season its newer leaders - and fast. Engagement with content subscriptions was limited. There was significant pushback around the inefficacy and inconvenience of workshops and seminars. The one resource requested repeatedly was executive coaching, but this was simply too expensive and administratively cumbersome to provide across the board to those in need. Alexandra and her cofounder, Samuel Cabral, set out on a path to disrupt traditional leadership development. By leveraging technology, countless interviews with L&D professionals, and a network of thought leaders at Harvard, they developed a cost-effective and turnkey solution for developing leaders. By making executive quality coaching and professional development accessible more broadly within organizations, Alexandra leads Pluma`s mission to build the next generation of happy, inspired, and highly effective leaders. Alexandra holds an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Public Policy from Princeton University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

San Francisco, CA

Leadership Development