Do you waste time in meetings that aren’t relevant to you?

I was with a client a few weeks ago where people were complaining about how common it was in their organisation for people to be on their blackberry or laptop during meetings (and this was worse during conference calls). There was general agreement that this lost a lot of time because people weren’t following the content of the meeting, and therefore there was repetition. As much as we like to think that we can multi-task we can’t!

And that could have been the end of the conversation, a conversation repeated in many organisations time and again.

Except a lone voice spoke up and stated something that many people often feel (when they’re on their blackberry) about meetings. He felt it was ok for him to be on his email during the meetings, as only about 20 mins of the meeting was relevant to him, if he was lucky, and the rest of his time may as well be productive.

Interesting point… if we’re honest many of us will feel that much of the meetings we attend aren’t relevant to us, so is it ok to make that time productive and do our emails?

I have an alternative suggestion which will free up some time, make you more productive and enhance your leadership. The starting point is a conversation with your boss or the person organising the meeting (whoever it was who wanted you to be there).

You see people who sit in meetings, thinking that the meeting is not relevant to them, are either right or wrong – fairly simple really.

If you’re right then having a conversation with the person concerned could get you out of that meeting, or give you the ability to attend only part of it. Thinking through a basic RACI grid (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) could give you the opportunity to step out of that meeting, and could free up the time of others also.

I have suggested attending only part of meetings to many people before and they often say that it wouldn’t be possible, which is based on the fact that it doesn’t currently happen. However, they have never actually proposed this idea and when they do so it’s often agreed to. Give it a go – you could be the first person and others may follow. Just think of how many people’s time you could end up saving!

But what if you’re wrong? In fact, I think this scenario is more common than the first (although the first does happen).  Most people tend to believe that they don’t need to be there, yet actually they do, and to understand that it’s important to think about yourself and you role as a leader in the organisation, rather than just a member of staff performing tasks.

Let me explain.

If you are there as a staff member performing tasks, then only the subjects which are relevant to your tasks have relevance to you.

If you are there as a leader in the organisation then you have a wider level of responsibility for the team, department, division, organisation, which sits outside of your role as the do-er of tasks. You are interested in the interconnections, the overlaps, the impact that one department changing it’s way of operating may have on the wider organisation, as well as your department.

You need to think about the benefit of a proposal to your department or team, versus the wider organisation – sometimes benefiting the whole organisation is very different to benefiting your team or department.

Leadership and the responsibility you take for things which sit outside your day-to-day tasks, means that much of what you thought was irrelevant may actually be your real job – the job of helping the organisation move forward.

But in many respects it’s easier to sit back and read some emails, be a bit resigned about the overall state of the organisation and the fact that you have to attend these bloody meetings. You can gossip about those who do try and take wider leadership as “politically motivated,” or “interfering in areas outside their remit.”

That’s a much easier life – and it is not leadership.

So next time you are in a meeting and you’re not sure why, talk to someone and be open to the possibility that you do actually need to be there!

8:28 pm | by Pete_Hamill

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