Stop Wasting People's Time with Inefficient Meetings



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A lot of people see meetings as a pure waste of time. If you consider the number of meetings we attend each day and how chaotic they often turn out to be, you can't really blame then. But how can we change that? This is the question for expert Jerko Bozikovic from Expert Academy.


08-09-2014 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten

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A lot of people see meetings as a pure waste of time. If you consider the number of meetings we attend each day and how chaotic they often turn out to be, you can't really blame then. But how can we change that? This is the question for expert Jerko Bozikovic.

 

Hi, Jerko. Welcome to our studio.

 

Thanks for inviting me, Kevin.

 

A lot of people see meetings as a time waster. How does that come?

 

Yeah, unfortunately because meetings can be something that is positive and useful. However, you know, nobody has time except time to lose time. And for many people, you know, meetings are one of those big time wasters.

 

Okay, but how does that come? What do we need to do differently to make them more productive?

 

So much. How much time do you have?

 

Well, about 10 minutes.

 

Okay, I'll do my best. No, you know, I think that the structure of meeting is, for many people, not really well-regulated. And often this is one of the reasons why meetings are inefficient. There are a couple of guidelines that one could use and I'll give you some of them. First of all, it's always very important to have a clear agenda. What are you going to talk about? Who am I going to invite? What is the purpose of the meeting? What goal do I want to achieve? Often we see that there's no clear agenda, so people get an invitation and, you know, it's like, okay, you'll find out in the meeting that what it's gonna be about, which, of course, doesn't really work because it shows that the meeting hasn't really been well prepared by the organizer but also by the participants. They can't really prepare themselves. So that doesn't really work. What is the goal or the purpose of the meeting? Where do we want to go? What is the purpose? Where do we want to end? It's not always very clear.


Sometimes it's like, okay, is it just because you want to inform us or is it because we need to brainstorm about something or is it because we need to learn something to apply or is it because we need to make next steps and as of tomorrow, it's going to be this or that way? So depending on the outcome, you will change your meeting. Another tip that is very important is timing. We see that the longer the meetings last, now the least efficient they become. So it is better to meet, for example, three times 20 minutes with your team a week than once two hours, even though two hours is double of three times 20 minutes. But we'll see that the efficiency of three times 20 minutes is much higher than one time two hours. So it's important to have a clear definition who's going to do what in the meeting. There are a couple of roles that we could say.

 

Roles? Like?

 

 

Yeah. There's like, for example, the president of the meeting. He's the person who's in charge. He is the person who often has organize the meeting and he can say, "Okay, stop, time out. We move on. We change subject." Etcetera. We have some secretary, somebody who's gonna take notes. It's always important to be able to recapitulate, you know, what was talked about, what was discussed, what are the next steps that are being decided?

 

It seems logical for a big meeting, but do you also do that with small meetings?

 

Yeah, I definitely would do it. And you know why? Because often, you know, we have discussed that it's not be you say something that therefore I hear it the same way or that something has been decided that therefore everybody knows exactly as from when or whether the real...procedures that need to be implemented. So it would be good if there's somebody who really takes notes that...even if it's only five bullet points and send them out to all the participants that you can have something to track, to retrace. Also, there's something interesting, which is, you know, we have objective time. Meaning, like today's this date, it is this hour. But we lift time subjectively. Meaning, if I ask you to have an... given to do something and your feeling says, "Oh yeah, I'll do it, you know, in between two tasks because it's only going to take me five minutes." Often, when you look at the objective item, it has taken you 20 minutes.

 

Just like presentations, for example.

 

How often does that happen, you know? "I just need five minutes to explain something." And then like 45 minutes they're still trying to make their point. So that's one of the reasons why we lose so often time and... but that's also, for example, now we've talked about something and I'm like, "That happened last week." And when we would look at the notes, it's like, "Oh my god, that was already three weeks ago." So there's a discrepancy between the objective time and the subjective time. And now that we're talking about time, the third role that is really important is the time keeper. You know what, if you're implemented, if you're engaged in the meeting, often, you know, we lose track of time. It's always important to have somebody who's outside of it, who's neutral, and who can really say, "Okay, you know, the agenda said we're gonna talk five minutes about this and 10 minutes about that." So that means that it needs to be well prepared, the meeting. And he has the power to say to the president, "Okay, two more minutes. Okay, now we've had five minutes. Do you want to add or not? Time out, we've talked already 10 minutes."

 

So start thinking about how do you...

 

Absolutely. And you will see that that meetings are much more efficient.

 

You also mentioned in the beginning that it is important to look at who you invite for meeting, and I think that's a very crucial one.

 

I know. I know so many people are sitting there and then two hours later they're leaning like, "Why was I here? You know, there was only 15 minutes of the whole meeting that applied to my department." And we need to allow ourselves and the people we work with to be able to say, you know what, you know, just come in late or if it is not clear from the agenda that I can ask the person who invited me like, "Do I really need to be there?" Because I have probably I have other priorities.

 

Yup. You also mentioned listening to another. That's another very crucial one.

 

Yes, it's very important.

 

Isn't there any tip on how can you make it work? Because people do a lot of things at the same time.

 

Very good communication skills, you know, really need to be applied in meetings. Well, there's several things we can do. First of all, I really would ban any electronic device, now like laptops and pads and cell phones.

 

Also for taking notes?

 

Well, you know, if it is to take notes and you really define that clearly and you all have to discipline to only stick to your notes, do it.

 

That's the problem.

 

That's the problem, that if, on the mean time, I'm gonna start checking mails...

 

If something pops up...

 

Yeah, it's not gonna work. It's not gonna work. First of all, I think it's a lack of respect. It's a lack of respect to the person who is speaking, you know. I mean, we're talking, you know, you're interviewing me. If I, at the same time, would be checking mails because I have, of course, a very important life and job and responsibilities, how would you feel? It's a lack of respect, you know. You just don't do that. Second thing is that we all think we can multitask, but we're not good multi...we can't actually. We're very good at task hopping. Now we jump from one task to another and then we think because we're jumping through 25 different tasks that we're multitasking, but we're not. If I am talking to you and you wanna remember something and you write it down, if I continue talking, you'll have to make a choice. Either you're gonna keep on writing and you don't really listen and you think or you're gonna stop writing and start listening to the newer thing be your brain physiologically can't do the two things at the same time. So if somebody's explaining me the new vision or strategy from the company and I'm, at the same time, checking out mails, I mean, I have heard only half of what that person said and my mails probably won't be that efficient answered than if I would just be dedicated to mails. So that doesn't work. Another thing is that we really need to start learning to active listen. Sometimes I see people and, you know, I see seven people talk at the same time and like what is the purpose? Is the purpose of that meeting that you've said your thing, which nobody heard anyway, or is the purpose of what you say is being heard and understood the way you think it's important and acted on?


So, and therefore, it's so important that from time to time we really take silences to let things sink in and then we say, "But we don't have time." Well, if we would use all those communication skills efficiently, we'll see that we lost less time.

 

Okay, those are a lot of tips and I will try to implement them in my daily work. Thank you very much, Jerko.

 

And you at home, thank you very much for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.

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