Meetings with a Mission, Part 6: Set a Meeting Time

Monday, November 11, 2013

6. Set a meeting time...and start on time.

In one survey conducted by staffing agency Accountemps, nearly a third of senior managers said that their list of workplace pet peeves was topped by meetings that began or ended late. (Just under a third of senior managers aid that the second thing on their list was meetings that weren't even necessary to begin with!)

Starting a meeting late is one of the most unproductive things you can possibly do, as a business owner or manager, and on so many levels.  

  • It's unproductive because you have team members sitting around doing nothing while waiting for the meeting to start.  Multiply how much each team member makes per hour, then per minute.  Then multiply the number of minutes they are waiting times the number of people who are waiting, then how much they make per minute.  That's how much money your company or organization is wasting when meetings start late.
  • It's unproductive because the meeting will generally have to then be rushed in order to get it finished on time, which means quality will suffer, which means clarity will lack, which means productivity will suffer.  
  • It's unproductive because if people come late, the information will have to be repeated, further wasting everyone else's time and making everyone unproductive. 
  • It's unproductive because it will create an environment in your company that ultimately promotes laziness, or worse, apathy.  The less people care about the small things, the less they will connect their work with productivity, and the less they will care about the company overall.  
The primary goal here is to have all of your team members arrive before the meeting and then start the meeting on time. 

1.  Pick a strategic time for your meeting.  Strategic timing is relative to your business or organization or team.  Sometimes, it's best described by what it is not.  Here are a list of things to avoid when strategizing the best time for your meeting.
  • Avoid early mornings.  People are still sleepy.  Yes, you probably wish they were the bursting ball of energy that you are in the morning.  But they're probably not. So don't try to push it.  You'll only irritate them.  And irritated team members at a meeting don't really get much done and probably will be too frustrated with you to buy into the plan completely.
  • Avoid meeting at the start of the business day.  This means people will have to prepare the day before, which may cut into what they're already doing and affect the quality of that work.  Also, it means people may have to come in early.  But remember point two.  They're sleepy.  So preparation for the meeting won't be qualitative.  
  • Avoid meeting at the end of the work day.  People are thinking about the end of the day.  They're probably tired and mentally worn out.  They're not going to be as productive in four or four-thirty meeting.  The meeting will probably run over, which means they will be thinking about whatever plans they need to change, which means they'll be texting during the meeting to change plans, which means they won't be listening, which means they won't be productive.  Get the point?  Plus, if you're meeting is supposed to create enthusiasm about something, it'll wear off on the drive home and they'll completely forget about it the next morning.
  • Avoid meeting after lunch.  If you've ever worked, and if you've ever eaten lunch at work, then you know what happens after you eat lunch and try to work.  It's really hard.
In a recent study conducted by WhenIsGood, the company found that the majority of those who responded accepted meeting times on Tuesdays at 3PM.   By that time, pre-lunch energy has generally returned.  And often, it's during that time that people have caffeinated themselves and their minds are racing again and ready to go.  This in turn suggests that it is productive to offer a light snack and some coffee or beverages at the meeting.  Many employees find it productive to eat and drink during a meeting.  

My other experiences have proven that mid-morning is also a great time of the day to meet.  Team members are settled into work, they are alert, and they're not yet overwhelmed with a ton of tasks.  This breeds creativity for the meeting and allows enthusiasm to remain throughout the day.

2.  Announce the meeting day and as many outlets as possible.  There are two important features of this step.
  • First, determine ahead of time that you want your people there five minutes before the meeting.  Create an environment of preparedness and readiness.  You do not want people arriving exactly at the meeting time, or worse, late.  You want them all arriving five minutes before so that you can start the meeting on time...with everyone.
  • Second, say it out loud to your team.  Talk to them individually if the size of your team allows that.  Put it in print in a company newsletter or memo.  Put it in an email to the company.  Put it on your internal communications outlets.  Schedule it in the company calendar and invite other team members.  Put it on your company Facebook page.  Tweet it.  Vine it.  Instragram it.  In short, announce the meeting in as many ways as your team members enjoy receiving information.  
  • Third, tell them in your announcement what they need to bring to the meeting.  If they come to a meeting without something to write with and without something to write on, they probably need to be fired.  There's a lot of arrogance and presumption in a team member who shows up to a meeting without some sort of tool to help them remember what they were meeting about.  Writing is thousands of years old and is never overrated.  Also, if they come to a meeting expecting to talk, but don't bring any corresponding documentation with them for the rest of your team, that's also not helpful.  It may not be necessary, but often times a simple handout can help team members focus on what's being discussed.  It also shows that other team members' attention is valued and that the person who wants to talk doesn't just want  So if you're the owner, manager, team leader, or meeting facilitator, tell people ahead of time what to bring with them to the meeting.
3.  Start the meeting...on time.  If there are late-comers, deal with them graciously, in private, and in writing.  That should probably only happen about once or twice, at the most.  While the subject of this post is not about dealing with late-comers, you do want to take it seriously.  In my honest opinion, failure to come to a meeting on time says you're an exception to the rule and that you don't care.  It communicates that you aren't smart enough to plan ahead far enough to get your personal items attended to before you come, or to simply block out five extra minutes on your schedule to get into the meeting room that early.  If that's true, then you probably don't need to be be working for that company or organization.  

Again, it's the simple things that make the bigger things a success or a failure.  

Read Part 7: Set a Timeframe

About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church.  From there he pursues Jesus' mission at Revive Consignment as the Business & Operations Development Director, as well as at Jubilee Church of Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 20 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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