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  • Writer's pictureJames Lush

Reclaim half your week: 5 communication tips to bin the 1-hour meeting.

Funnily enough I was half way through writing this article when I came across this piece “bosses say nearly half of meetings should disappear” originally published in the Washington Post. Hurrah, I wasn’t the only one banging a drum about the issue. For the past year I’ve been showing companies how to communicate with impact and in so doing get half their week back. Primarily through more efficient, succinct, deliberate and intentional communication. It’s been quite a revelation, showing leaders where their communications may be failing, but then within a matter of hours putting them on the road to success.

Let’s just dispel the myth, if you are a leader you can do everything well. In my view we are average at most things but occasionally we shine! Sadly there’s not a lot of shining when it comes to how we communicate. Perhaps as pack animals we can only be as good as the pack in which we exist. We watch, we copy, we do more of the same. And if that pack is mediocre at best, then that’s pretty much where we will sit. And so on it goes. If I was to summarise what the MOST common failing is I'd say we tend to take several minutes to make a point when 20 seconds would have been ample. We fumble around, spitting words out left right and centre in the hope something will land. It’s hit and hope! And we’ve all been there…your line manager babbling incessantly unable to make a coherent point, interrupting and pretty much sapping the energy out of anyone present.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do better. It requires a new mindset. Why would the best sports stars in the world still see a need to have a coach? It’s not because they require someone dependable to ‘hit with,’ it’s because that person can see the blind spots and make greater improvements. In essence, create extraordinary.

So over the next few weeks I want to help shift the mindset. From one of mediocre is OK, to extraordinary is what we seek.

In the new series “More thinking, less doing” we start by taking on the biggest time wasting culprit of all, the internal meeting. Here are five simple steps to halve the meeting time and get half your week back in the process:

Before we lay out the “doing” part, here is the thinking part. It requires asking yourself better questions.

· Why the need to meet? Could we move towards discussion/actions another way? What do we need to achieve together? What decisions are we making? Ultimately this is what it’s all about – discussion and decision making. No one should leave the meeting without a deep understanding of what’s been achieved.

· Who do I need in the meeting – hint: the smaller the number the better the outcome. Too many and you get decision making by committee and end up with beige!

· Where should the meeting be held – hint: boardroom/meeting rooms are often the go-to but whilst they may be practical with chairs, tables and screens there not always the best shape/layout for effective communication. (Remember, meetings conducted today all on line or hybrid style require a totally different approach). Could you take the meeting outside? Could it be done standing up? Could it be done walking? Avoid default mode. Think!

· When should it be held - hint: time of day matters. First thing in the morning could be the best time for the team to do their best individual work, so allowing that to happen before calling the meeting could be a good suggestion.

· And finally how long does the meeting need to be – hint: less is more. One hour default is generally excessive and totally unnecessary. My advice, look at 15 minute block intervals and then work out how many of these are really necessary to do what you want to do. Having done over 30,000 interviews in less than 10 minutes trust me, you can achieve a lot in a small amount of time but it requires focus. Allocate one hour and you’ll find that the team are able to fill it. Productively? That’s another matter.

On my calculations, halve every meeting in your calendar over the course of a week and you'll get half your week back. It IS possible. It requires discipline, focus and practice. But strengthen "this muscle" and you'll be amazed at how much more effective you'll be. The added advantage is you'll also have a far more engaged and energised workplace

OK, if we’re still up for a meeting, you’ve got the numbers, the location, the plan of action and the desired outcomes, coming next week, five simple quick and easy tips for how you can really make it a success. Hint: it’s all about the communication.

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