What if you declined some meeting invitations? The silence on the phone was palpable. I waited. Finally my client responded, “That would be awkward.” As the conversation continued two central issues emerged: 1 – The fear that he might miss something important and 2 – That he would be seen as less valuable because he wasn’t “needed” in so many meetings.
Those are both valid concerns. There are a few things you need to know to decide if a meeting is worth your time or not:
What type of meeting is it?
There are really only three types of meetings; brainstorming, decision making and information providing. They should not be confused or intertwined.
How will you know if the meeting has met its goal?
This question is often met with blank stares. If the person running the meeting can’t answer this question succinctly, the meeting is not going to be productive.
Understand your role in the meeting
Decision makers should attend decision making meetings and the people acting on decisions should attend information providing meetings. Brainstorming should be a combination of people who have knowledge on the subject being discussed. Which are you and how do you fit in this meeting?
How many is too many?
I am a big fan of seven. It is a good manageable number where everyone can be involved in the discussion. Once you get beyond about ten people, you are no longer in a meeting. It is a presentation with only the most outspoken of the group will interact with the presenter. If an invite list is large and you believe you really need to attend, see if it is possible for you to attend only the part of the meeting that is relevant to you (arrive late/leave early).
Does the person running the meeting have the knowledge and power to do so?
If you have leaders who can’t run a meeting effectively or don't have the authority to make decisions, the meeting isn’t going to be productive. If you are that leader, get some coaching/mentoring. If you attend a regular meeting that’s not run well, either decline it outright or find a way to support the person running it to make better use of your time.
If you’re really concerned that you’ll miss something, set up a buddy system with your co-workers. Split up the meetings you’re invited to. One person attends and fills in everyone else. Take turns attending that one long, time-sucking meeting that everyone hates.
Let your work speak for you
How many meetings you attend is not what makes or breaks your career. Allow your time and energy to flounder in a maddening march of meaningless meetings and you will blend in with the masses. Be visible, create value and be a leader in the meetings you attend and you will be seen as important and productive.
Really – decline a meeting
Pick one meeting and decline it. Start the conversation. Create a ripple in the company culture toward better productivity. Your time is your most valuable commodity; take control of it.
As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!