How to Make Meetings Not Soul Sucking

What percentage of time do you spend in meetings? According to the Muse, If you’re a middle manager, it’s likely about 35% of your time. If you’re in upper management, it can be a whopping 50% (or even more if when you’re doing everything virtually).

Meetings have a bad reputation. Some of this comes from having too many meetings. The rest of the bad reputation is often earned by meetings that lack clear goals, fail to have any sort of urgency, and don’t connect to any form of purpose.

In a largely virtual world, the onslaught of useless meetings can become even more soul-sucking. (Hello, Zoom fatigue).

To make your own work-life and the work-life of your peers more interesting and meaningful, try these three tips to keep your meetings high energy.

1.    Be Clear About WHY the Meeting Matters

Tell people, in normal plain language, why this matters, and why they should engage. You can even make it kinda’ cheesy, like “In an effort to deliver the best product to our customers, it’s crucial we figure out the issues with this supply chain.”

I often hear from leaders reluctant to provide framing, saying they, “Don’t want to insult their team’s intelligence” by stating something they “already know.” Restating why the meeting matters is not insulting the intelligence of the attendees; it’s calling everyone into the space and aligning minds before beginning. It’s a service to everyone.

It’s like if someone reminded me “Looking your spouse in the eye and deeply listening is the hallmark of a great marriage.” Yeah. I know. I could also stand to be reminded.

In the hustle and bustle of getting things done, everyone can use the reminder: Our work matters.

(And PS if you can’t articulate why the meeting matters, you probably shouldn’t be having a meeting in the first place).

2.    Make the Decisions

71% of meetings are reported unproductive and inefficient, according to the Harvard Business Review. Which is MBA-speak for ‘pointless.’

In an effort to “take that offline” and “circle back” sometimes we end up not accomplishing much. This is a well-intended downfall. We want to be respectful of everyone’s time in the room, we don’t want to make choices without all of the information, etc. Yet kicking the can down the road on decision making (especially small decisions) does more than delay action, it sucks the energy out of projects, it reduces urgency, and kills innovation.

Make the decisions, knowing that sometimes, you will make the wrong one. It’s the price to pay for momentum. Nine good decisions and one ‘oops’ decision are better than 10 no-decisions.

If you continue to struggle with not getting enough accomplished in meetings, I highly recommend the book, Where The Action Is.

3.    Stay Conscious of the Emotional Wake

Most well-intended leaders think about what they want to accomplish in the meeting through the lens of the results they want to get. There’s another, equally crucial important lens to look through when you’re thinking about meetings: The Emotional Wake.

The emotional wake is the sum of the feelings after a meeting. How do you want people to feel when the meeting is done? What is the wake you want to leave behind?

Inspired? Excited? Motivated? Nervous? Grateful?

To reiterate, ‘clear on the action items’ is not a feeling.

If you’re hosting the meeting, decide what emotional wake you want to leave behind. If you want people to feel inspired, make sure you’re painting the picture of what success looks like. If you want people to feel motivated, give a lot of opportunities for them to weigh in, and take ownership.

Meetings are where energy, meaning and enthusiasm can live or die. When everyone drags on aimlessly in verbal circles, the life is sucked out. It doesn’t have to be this way. Meetings can be an opportunity to feed off of each other’s energy, to be collaborative, and to make a real impact on those you serve.