The Cost of Misused “Timesavers”

We’ve all been there – the meeting that should have been an email. Why does this happen and how can it be avoided? Meetings can be valuable, but there are way too many that are a waste of time.

An executive client recently told me that he tried to orchestrate outcomes prior to meetings in an effort to decrease conflict and save time. “I belong to many boards, and I encounter this regularly – real decisions are made outside the meeting. The meeting is pro forma,” he told me. “It saves a lot of time.” Unfortunately, this model is more detrimental than it is helpful to organizations. Meetings must involve real conversation, or they are a waste of time for everyone involved.

Through his efforts to arrive at a solution prior to the meeting intended to address the problem, this executive was setting his employees up to attend a pointless meeting, designed to inform, not to engage. He denied individuals the opportunity to hear each other, and to clarify their own thinking though debate. Further, conflict can be good, if done in the context of mutual respect with no one individual dominating the conversation.

Meetings held just to inform are a waste of time; leaders should rely on email to disseminate information – and having meetings because no one reads simply reinforces laziness.

Additionally, the manager wasn’t saving himself time. His efforts were organized like a wheel, with himself at the center, and required many individual conversations. The outcomes relied on his interpretation of the conversations without offering the opportunity for collaborative input or ideas from his colleagues.

Providing effective leadership thorough disseminating pertinent information prior to a meeting and then actively moderating the meeting itself will advance impactful solutions, and will increase buy-in from employees. It increases the quality of problem solving and demonstrates respect for both team members’ contributions and time. Disseminate on email. Discuss in meetings. Don’t have another meeting that should have been an email.

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