Are You Wasting My Time?

Photo Credit: John Zubrovich

Yesterday I observed a classic scenario that I am sure you have experienced repeatedly in your career.  How often have you been in a meeting that has no direction, the speaker is incoherent, and you just want to scream, “Are you wasting my time?”

I was in such a meeting yesterday.  Shame on me though, I had joined the conference call late and so for a moment sat there and listened to the rambling thinking it was penance for my late arrival.  I assumed that someone had already covered off the agenda, the purpose, and participants in the meeting.  I assumed wrong.

There were two PowerPoint presentations that had been sent out for the 30 minute meeting that together represented 75 slides and apparently we were going through each; one by one.  The meeting really wasn’t going anywhere and the speaker didn’t fully know what they were talking about or what the needs of our business were.

Before I stepped in myself, a beacon of light emerged on the horizon.  A young senior manager, apparently fed up, had enough managerial courage to jump in the middle of the meeting and take it over by asking, “What is the purpose of this meeting?  What are we trying to get out of it?”  He wasn’t rude, but was in fact very professional in the way that he went about it.  From there he steered us through what we needed to accomplish, next steps, and closed us out.  [In my mind I was cheering him on.]

As leaders, we all have many opportunities to both lead and attend meetings. In each role we have responsibilities.  I’ve included some bullet points below that highlight these responsibilities.  This is not an exhaustive list, but covers many of the basics.  We also find ourselves in situations where we may need to step in and take control, as this senior manager did, but it must be done with professionalism and finesse.

So, as you examine your own meeting etiquette, ask yourself, “Am I wasting people’s time?”  If your response is ‘yes’, then what do you need to do differently to fix it?

I’m including some basic bullets on good meeting management and good meeting ettiqute below my signature.  There are tons of great resources on the web.  Search “Leading Effective Meetings” on the web if you need more.

Time is one of our most precious and scare resources.  So, as a leader, I challenge you to 1) be known for leading great meetings and 2) be known for being an engaged active participant.




Responsibilities in leading a meeting:

  • Don’t waste people’s time. Come prepared.  Start prepared.
  • Make sure the meeting length is appropriate for the purpose of the meeting.
  • Send an agenda ahead of time.
  • Begin (small) meetings with introductions
  • Ensure everyone knows why they are there and the expected outcome.
  • Stay on topic and on time.
  • Plan time in for questions and be prepared to answer questions.
  • Set next steps and action items.
  • End meetings with a summary of decisions, assignments, and next steps.
  • Thank everyone for attending.
  • End early if you can (give back time).
  • Follow up with a recap email.

Responsibilities in attending meetings:

  • Only go to meetings that there is a reason or purpose for you to participate in.
  • Come prepared.
  • Pay attention.
  • Be an active participant in the meeting.  Speak up. Don’t spend time in sideline conversations, on your blackberry, or on your computer.
  • Ask thoughtful, brief questions that contribute to the conversation.
  • Do not interrupt others.
  • Attend the ENTIRE meeting.
  • ASK CLARIFYING questions if you don’t understand.  Chances are others don’t understand either.
  • If the meeting is out of control, contribute in helping the facilitator retain control.  If they facilitator is the cause, you may need to exert some managerial courage and take over.  Make sure to do so professionally and politely as possible.  Don’t engage in unprofessional behavior or call the facilitator out.

SIDENOTE: Every situation is different and you will have to use your best judgment based upon the variables presenting themselves when dealing with a situation like the one described above.  Dealing with especially difficult situations may require you talking with the facilitator or their supervisor after the meeting has concluded in private.

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