How to make meetings worthwhile
Does your workforce always go into staff meetings feeling enthused and energetic? Do you feel confident that you'll accomplish a clear goal by rounding people up for a meeting? Are you sure everyone will walk away knowing exactly what to do next and how to put what they've learned into practice?
If the answer to all these questions is yes in both cases, then you might be in the minority and you're certainly very lucky. After all, a study by Microsoft has found that nearly one in four employees feel they attend so many face-to-face meetings that they feel are a waste of time.
This clearly suggests there are things bosses could be doing differently in order to make meetings count and be genuinely worthwhile. Otherwise, you're just taking people away from their job when they could be getting on with tasks and contributing more positively to the business.
Gillian Coutts, Australian director of The Potential Project, has come up with a few useful suggestions that could help you make meetings more productive.
Writing in HRM, she suggested that anyone setting up a meeting should consider what it is for. Is it a leadership meeting, or an operational, strategic or creative session? By answering this question, Ms Coutts believes bosses can set the conditions for a meeting that are actually fit for purpose.
Another suggestion she puts forward is making sure attendees aren't using their phones or laptops throughout.
This, she said, is because sending emails or proceeding with other unrelated matters means they won't be 100 per cent focused on the job at hand.
Ms Coutts insisted that setting these devices aside would mean everyone is "fully present with each other and the common agenda", therefore saving time and energy for all concerned.
Finally, Ms Coutts believes anyone attending a formal meeting should take a short mental break before entering, perhaps by pausing and taking three full breaths.
She said this approach enables people to let go of what they've been doing and instead of focus on what's coming up.
As a result, they'd enter the meeting in a better frame of mind and more receptive to what will be on the agenda.
A wandering mind can make a meeting utterly pointless, as it's easy to be distracted by thoughts of what's piling up in your in-tray or what you're up to at the weekend.
In which case, it would certainly pay to adopt and promote some of these ways of making employees more focused before a meeting actually starts.
Another option worth thinking about is considering whether a meeting should actually be your first resort when you need to tackle a problem or discuss a certain matter.
As Jason Fried, co-author of Office Not Required, points out, scheduling meetings can often be counterproductive.
"Meetings should be like salt - a spice sprinkled carefully to enhance a dish, not poured recklessly over every forkful," he observed.
"Too much salt destroys a dish. Too many meetings destroy morale and motivation.”
Workplace morale is critical to the success of a business, so it pays to create an environment in which people can flourish rather than feel stifled and burdened.