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The Most Expensive Meeting You’ll Ever Have

October 23, 2017

I have lots of meetings every week. It’s funny, I don’t have a “team” in the traditional sense. My immediate manager is a Senior Vice President with whom I never interact. Seriously, he put me under him on the org chart and said, “I don’t intend to manage you. Work with David for anything you need.”

David if a vice president in a totally different department. I’m IT. David’s team is Client Services. But, I provide IT services for David’s client. Really they’re my client too.

So, I’m kind of on David’s team. But, then I interact with our engineering teams, our operations teams, our Incident Management teams. I get pulled in a lot of different directions. And despite answer to two VPs, I don’t have any direct reports under me.

So, when I hold a meeting, I cannot compel anyone to show up. Not that people avoid me, but if they chose to I don’t have a lot of options.

My most important meeting is 9:00am Monday morning. I meet with operations and account management from all across the country to give a report on what happened the previous week and what is coming up this week. It’s 30 minutes long because I hate long meetings. It’s typically a very full 30 minutes and is the most valuable half hour of my week.

Last week, I didn’t have it. I was prepared. I had my notes ready. I had my reports and statuses, my plans and schedules. I was set. I got preempted.

The company had an all hands meeting. Employees from all around the world dialed into the online meeting to listen to the chairman explain where we have been and where he wants us to go. He announced promotions and transfers. He talked about successes and challenges. (My account was one of just a handful of accounts mentioned on both lists.)

It was without a doubt the most expensive meeting I had ever attended.

In your company, your staff meeting is your most expensive meeting. Two things happen in a staff meeting. First, everyone attends. That means that everyone is getting paid. You are carrying the full weight of payroll through that meeting. Second, no work gets done. Typically staff meetings are for reporting and disseminating information. Whatever it is that you do is probably not getting done during a staff meeting. They are really expensive.

I’ve always kept that in mind during my meetings. It’s why my 9:00am meeting is only 30 minutes. It’s why if we finish the topics of a meeting early, we end the meeting.

I’m a pretty personable guy. Ninety percent of my interaction happens over the phone. So, I’ve been known to keep the phone conferences light. I’ll tease someone, or call out a holiday that someone returned from. It’s important to keep it light. But, there is a fine line between keeping it light and wasting people’s time.

In my previous team, team meetings were scheduled for an hour and they are mandatory. I was once told that I should abandon a production outage until after the team meeting. And yet, the topics would often veer off into long asides about football, or the weather, or vacation spots, or THIS ISN’T HELPING ME BE PRODUCTIVE!!

I’m sure that manager will get better at meetings as he goes on. But, it was certainly frustrating to be locked into a meeting that wasn’t focused on helping the team become more informed or more productive.

The meeting that I got bumped for, followed that logic. It was 90 minutes, but the topics were relevant and the pace was brisk. We came away with new and important information.

You pay your people for their time. Don’t waste it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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