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6 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When Scheduling Meetings

Don’t let the meetings you lead be a colossal waste of time and energy. Note how to take care of business without irritating employees.

6 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When Scheduling Meetings
[Photo: Flickr user Hotel Arthur]

Another day, another meeting. Sure, some feel like a complete waste of time, but how about the ones that leave you frustrated, resentful–even hungry?

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While you might not be able to get rid of meetings altogether, leaders have the power to reduce meeting fatigue. Here are some of the most common complaints with potential solutions because Fast Company‘s helpful like that:

1. No Good Reason For A Meeting

Do you really need to meet, or are you just checking in? Skip the status updates and use collaborative task tracking software to learn how projects are progressing, says Ray Grainger, CEO of Mavenlink, a California-based online project management software company.

“Team members whose tasks are updated and on schedule get extra time to get work done, and you can focus your time talking to individuals who are behind schedule or who aren’t reporting their progress,” Grainger says.

2. Not Honoring People’s Time

People are busy. “Focus on the outcome,” says Allison Rimm, a Massachusetts-based strategic planning consultant. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the meeting and design the agenda based on that result, she suggests.

Circulate the agenda in advance of the meeting, along with pertinent background information to frame the discussion, and focus it further with three key discussion points. “Ask people to read the background data and come prepared to discuss its implications on the organization and what to do about it,” Rimm says.

3. Bad Timing

Scheduling a meeting around lunchtime and not offering food can lead to hungry, disinterested, and entitled employees. In a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in August 2014, professors Emily Zitek at Cornell University and Alexander Jordan at Dartmouth College note hunger is a self-focused state, where a person is thinking of their own needs and not about others.

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“Hunger levels fluctuate throughout the day, and people’s sense of entitlement seems to fluctuate along with their hunger,” the authors note. Expecting a contentious meeting? Wait until after lunch.

4. Inviting The Wrong People

Limit the number of attendees to the people who need to be at the meeting, says Lorraine Stomski, head of Aon Hewitt’s leadership consulting practice.

“Be thoughtful about who you invite,” Stomski advises. “Ask questions like, will they add value? Do they have subject matter expertise? Does someone else already fill this role?”

5. Failing To Consider The Cost

If you consider a one-hour meeting is a very small percentage of an employee’s annual salary, that’s only one cost of the meeting, says Dennis O’Neill, a New York-based executive coach. You’re also failing to account for the opportunity cost–what that person could be working on if they weren’t stuck in an unproductive meeting, O’Neill says.

Barbara Bates, CEO of Eastwick, a Silicon Valley technology communications firm, suggests doing some quick math to determine whether having the meeting is worth the investment. Trimming the invite list, focusing the agenda, and shortening the meeting by 15 minutes can make a financial impact.

6. No Follow Up

There’s nothing worse than getting through a meeting where an issue was decided and then . . . nothing happens. To avoid this problem, Maura Thomas, an Austin-based productivity expert, recommends asking three questions at the end of the meeting and making note of the responses:

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  1. What’s the next action?
  2. Who’s responsible?
  3. When’s the due date?

“Having these questions and answers recorded in the minutes creates accountability through publicity,” Thomas explains. “It’s much easier to miss a deadline when no one knows you have it. When it’s a public deadline, people are much more likely to meet it.”

About the author

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based business and lifestyle freelance writer who's worked for NBC and CNN. Her work has appeared online in Entrepreneur.com, Reuters.com, Today.com, NBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, BlogHer.com and Fox Business.

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