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You’re Not Doing it Right: Here’s How to Hold Effective Meetings

Remote workers will need to meet more frequently

Did you know that the number of remote workers has increased by a staggering 87% since the pandemic started? And from the looks of it, the “Remote Work Lifestyle” won’t be going away anytime soon either.

We’re living in a very disconnected world, and so you need to put more effort into bringing back that connection from the office and incorporating it in the virtual workplace—in other words, calling meetings more often than you did before.

In fact, a Gallup study found that employees who meet up with their managers more regularly are three times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t. And that was when meetings were in-person. Remote work has caused a tangible rift among company workers, and CEOs need to try to close that rift.

You’ll want to guide them, redirect them, and aide them in setting work priorities and goals by checking in on them more frequently than you did in the outside world.

While you certainly need to meet up with team members or staff more frequently, the exact number of meetings you need to hold doesn’t really matter as long as your meetings are meaningful, productive, and serve a purpose.

If employees want to meet up so badly, then why are 67% of employees saying meetings are unproductive?

It’s simple; employees are human. And humans thrive on personal connection, making a difference, and feeling like they’re adding something valuable to their community, organization, or the like.

The 67% mentioned at the beginning who claim their meetings are unproductive want to be part of a meeting that actually serves a purpose, a goal, or one in which they can voice out their own suggestions. A study called “Meetings in America” shows that 92% of employees see meetings as a way of contributing to the company, yet at the same time, 91% of the respondents within the same study admit to daydreaming during a meeting.

So what can you do to make meetings more engaging and productive for your employees? Read on to find out how.

How to make meetings more effective and productive

#1 Listen, and rarely speak

Ben Horowitz, technology entrepreneur and co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, once said something so simple yet so remarkable. “The manager should do 10% of the talking and 90% of the listening.”

People in managerial roles tend to spend too much time barking orders, talking over their peers, and “hogging the mic” during meetings, giving little to no room for anyone to make a contribution. Your job as a manager isn’t to give instructions—your job is to guide your team members, listen to their suggestions, and recognize great ideas when you hear them.

Don’t offer the right answers to your employees on a silver platter, let them tell you what they think. During a meeting, allow them to brainstorm solutions on their own, and let them come up with suggestions themselves. You’re only there to redirect them if they go off-topic and ask questions.

#2 Your meetings should have a clear agenda; a clear goal and a clear objective

Thirty-seven billion dollars are wasted on unproductive meetings every year, and all because people only meet for the sake of meeting, and not for any particular reason.

As a manager, you shouldn’t allow any meetings to happen if there is no clear structure or plan on how these meetings are going to pan out. Plan out your meetings from A to Z as though you’re planning for an outing.

There’s obviously the date and time, but there’s also the objective of the meeting, who needs to be there, the number of attendants, and the duration of the meeting—Stick to a strict and clear agenda.

Have discussion points, issues that need to be discussed, and action items ready. Send these notes to your employees ahead of time before the meeting so that they’re prepared, and not just the date and time, and a vague sentence describing the topic of the meeting. There’s nothing wrong with brevity—in fact, you’re encouraged to keep those pre-meeting notes sweet, short, and simple—, it’s vagueness that you want to avoid.

And don’t forget to time your meetings. Don’t let your meeting run longer than you intended them to. If it’s going to be 10 minutes long, then it’s going to be 10 minutes long. No more, no less.

If possible, have someone record the meeting and then send the audio (or video) recording or summarized document to the attendees once the meeting is over.

#3 Have as little amount of people as possible in meetings

The CEO and founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has a thing or two to say about running effective meetings. Apparently, Amazon wasn’t the only thing he founded—his “Two-Pizza Rule” for holding meetings is one of the many reasons why Amazon is the leading innovator in its industry.

His rule of thumb is that the threshold for any meeting should be the number of people enough to eat two full pizzas. If it’s any more than that, then you might need to reduce the size of your meetings.

When you have more people, you have more of everything. Larger meetings will require more coordination and management, and that means not everyone in your team will get the chance to contribute or even get the support they need during a meeting.

#4 Use OKRs to redirect your employees

So you’re spectating a meeting and being a better listener. One attendee is known for veering off subject or mentioning something completely unrelated to the topic in question during meetings. How can you teach a team member to stay on topic?

Use OKRs as a reference point whenever you sense an employee bringing up discussion points that aren’t relevant to the goal of the meeting. OKRs improve employee performance because they home in on specific key metrics that employees need to satisfy by a given period of time to reach a certain goal.

Always use OKRs to redirect your team and speak in strategic terms. Ask them questions directly related to their OKRs and how their suggestions will help the organization reach its goals.

Unproductive meetings could be the reason why your employees dread them so much

People dread meetings because they’re done wrong—a large meeting serving no purpose at all can be emotionally and physically draining, and maybe even distracting. This Udemy report shows that 60% of those surveyed thought of meetings as just another work distraction.

Effective meetings are key factors of business success. Productive and purposeful meetings really do make a difference. They’re important, and can add a lot of value to the company if done right.

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