Meetings are the bane of our existence. We spend so much time in them that we are numb to the effects of the meeting environment. We sit there going over email or messages waiting for our turn to talk.

So, we dread meetings, but we sit in them. Why?

Our lack of trust in others is probably top on the list. You don’t trust someone in the meeting because they will kill your idea, take credit for it, or take you down in front of the boss when you aren’t there. This is a toxic environment and needs to be cleaned up immediately. The organization, department, or team can’t get anything done with this type of attitude.

Another reason for mistrust, which may be even more significant, is the fear of missing out. The belief that the information divulged, decision reached, direction established, or question asked, may not be disseminated to those that are affected by the new information, decision, direction, or question.

So how do we make meetings productive without mistrust? Here are ten things you can do:

  1. Respect others’ time. In turn, let others know that your time is as valuable as theirs.
  2. Cancel all but the most important meetings. Periodically review the purpose and goals of the meeting to determine what should stay, what should go, or what should be changed.
  3. Provide a notes page someplace, such as SharePoint, Google Drive, or DropBox, where everyone can see all of the activity and/or progress that the group is making.
  4. Send a reminder of the meeting with a link or copy of the latest notes attached.
  5. Start on time regardless of who is there or not. The first few times may be rough, but let people know that the meeting will start on time and if they miss the first few minutes, they can talk to someone else afterward.
  6. You could allow the first five or ten minutes of the meeting strictly for people to read up on the status of the meeting. But start on time no matter what.
  7. Before an important meeting, talk to the key influencers and get a take on how they feel about the subject. If the response is not what you were hoping or expecting, you may want to postpone the meeting and work on the subject some more before taking it to the main group.
  8. Consider a designated note taker that is not leading the meeting, so that the notes can be duly reported and then produced in a timely manner.
  9. Create an action item list. If there are no action items, why have another meeting? If there are action items but the group needs a month to work on them, don’t have a meeting next week. Schedule the next meeting after the action times have elapsed. If there are critical aspects to the action items, it may be cause for an in-between meeting.
  10. When the need for the meeting is complete, kill it.

Meetings can be useful to communicate vital information to a number of people in a short amount of time. But be mindful of mistrust, the fear of missing out, meeting fatigue, and usefulness. Consideration of all of these will make your organization more productive and you a better leader.

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