Ever feel like meetings are killing your productivity? According to research from Atlassian, nearly half of workers say they’re overwhelmed by the number of meetings they’re expected to attend.
Even worse, 47 percent of workers ranked meetings as their number one time waster, while research from Korn Ferry found that a whopping 67 percent of employees claim that excessive meetings keep them from making their best impact at work.
So, how do you craft a meeting game plan that allows for connection and collaboration without overwhelming your people? We talked to Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg, Professor of Organizational Science, Management, and Psychology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, and the literal expert on all things meetings—for his insights. Here’s what he had to say:
How to determine the right meeting cadence
When it comes to the ideal meeting cadence, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Why? The answer is obvious. “Because there's just so many different meeting purposes and approaches,” says Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg, Professor of Organizational Science, Management, and Psychology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance.
While there’s no universal answer to “how often should we meet?” there are some universal strategies you can leverage to help you find the right meeting cadence for all the meetings on your calendar, including:
Determine if a meeting is actually necessary
As mentioned, there are a lot of meetings that accomplish little more than wasting your team’s time. So, before you determine how often you should hold a particular meeting, it’s important to determine whether you actually need that meeting on your calendar to begin with.
So how do you do that? Rogelberg suggests asking yourself a few key questions, starting with questioning why, exactly, you’re planning to meet.
“[Ask yourself] do you actually have a compelling purpose to gather people together?,” says Rogelberg.
If there’s no real reason to bring your team together, skip the meeting. If you do have a clear, compelling purpose for assembling your team, the next question has to do with whether that purpose actually calls for bringing people together in real-time.
“Does that compelling purpose actually require people to interact with the content in some manner—be it actively asking questions or actually shaping [the content]?,” says Rogelberg.
So, for example, if the sole purpose is to have leadership share some new data points (and there’s no actual interaction or input needed from your team), you can just use Confluence to share key information and allow your team to review it on their own time—no meeting required.
If you do decide that your team needs to interact with your proposed meeting content, the last question you’ll want to ask yourself is, “Is getting people together for a meeting the most optimal way of achieving the end [goals]?,” says Rogelberg.
Sometimes, there are more effective ways to hit your goals. For example, if the goal for your meeting is to get feedback on a new company policy, sending the policy out to your team and having them respond with feedback on their own time is probably a more optimal way of achieving your goal. Asynchronous feedback doesn’t jeopardize the team’s time, and allows them to review the policy and deliver feedback when it works for them.
Asking yourself these three questions can help you identify when you do and don’t need a meeting—and can keep unnecessary meetings off your (and your team’s!) calendar.
Tap your team for insights
If you’re trying to decide how often you need to hold a certain meeting, then why not poll the people that actually attend that meeting—AKA your team members.
“Your meetings are inherently a shared experience, thus you have multiple voices that can provide insight,” says Rogelberg.
Connect with your team to ask their opinion on the ideal schedule for meetings they’re involved in, either through surveys or direct conversations. Then, use their insights to choose a cadence that works for the whole team.
For example, if, after surveying your team, you get the feedback that your daily stand-ups are keeping your team members from getting meaningful work done, consider cutting back to meeting two or three times per week. On the flip side, if your employees tell you they want more guidance and support, you might consider increasing the frequency of your one-on-one meetings.
The point is, when it comes to meeting cadence, “leaders don't have to make these decisions unilaterally,” says Rogelberg. “What leaders need to do is create a process so that voices can emerge into these conversations” and then leverage those insights to find a cadence that works for them and their team.
Perform regular audits of your existing meeting schedule
The ideal meeting cadence doesn’t stay the same forever. While meeting with your department every week might be ideal when you’re working on a large project, that cadence might be too much once the project wraps up.
That’s why it’s important to regularly audit and review your existing meeting schedule.
The auditing process is simple. Look at your standing meetings and ask yourself:
- Is this meeting still necessary?
- Does this meeting cadence make sense for my team’s current goals, projects, and workflow?
Regularly reviewing your meetings will help you to continually adjust your meeting cadence to ensure it’s in line with your team’s current needs and goals, and will also help you eliminate any meetings that are no longer necessary and are just taking up space on your calendar.
“This regular review of standing meetings… is very helpful to make sure that we're not just filling our calendars with new meetings—and that we're willing to drop meetings [if and when they’re no longer necessary],” says Rogelberg.
The right meeting cadence for every type of meeting
As mentioned, there’s no one-size-fits-all meeting cadence. That being said, there are “certain types of meetings where…[it makes sense to] have a regular cadence,” says Rogelberg.
Those meetings include:
- One-on-ones. Rogelberg recommends scheduling one-on-one meetings on a weekly or biweekly basis. “When they're regularly occurring, you just tend to get into a much better rhythm,” says Rogelberg.
- Stand ups. Because these meetings are critical in moving projects along, stand ups, which are also sometimes called status meetings, should happen on a more frequent basis. “Either daily or every few days,” says Rogelberg.
For other types of meetings, a set cadence doesn’t always work. “The rest of the meetings, which tend to be more tied to addressing particular topics or issues…that's where the organic decision making [on how often to meet] can occur,” says Rogelberg.
For these meetings, you’ll need to assess on a case-by-case basis when and how often you need them. This includes:
- All hands meetings
- Departmental meetings
- Leadership meetings
- Check-in meetings
Tips for more effective meetings—and a more effective cadence for those meetings
Looking for ways to make your meeting—and your meeting cadence—more effective? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
When it comes to meeting cadence, err on the side of “less is more”
If you’re not sure whether you should meet more often than you think is necessary or less often than you think is necessary, err on the side of less.
“You definitely don't want to err on the side of [meeting] too often, given Parkinson's law—that work expands to fill whatever time is allotted to it,” says Rogelberg.
Or, in other words, meeting more often than is necessary won’t help you get more work done. Instead, it’s likely that the work that needs to get done will just get stretched across the extra meeting sessions.
Meet more frequently—but for shorter sessions
As we just mentioned, when it comes to meetings, you should err on the side of less is more.
But there are exceptions to that rule—specifically when it comes to the length of meetings.
“It's often the case that a few shorter meetings can actually get more progress and yield better quality decisions than just one longer meeting,” says Rogelberg.
Meeting more frequently but for shorter time frames, can help keep attendees more engaged with the content. And when attendees are more engaged, meetings are more productive. So chances are, you’ll get a lot more done when meeting for 20 minutes three times a week than meeting for an hour once per week.
And if something comes up during one of your shorter meetings that warrants more attention? You can always schedule a follow-up meeting for further discussion.
Cluster your meetings
How often you schedule meetings is important, but so is when you actually schedule those meetings. If your team members have a meeting every other hour all day long, it’s going to be hard to get any meaningful work done.
That’s why you should consider “trying to schedule the meetings themselves such that they are more clustered together,” says Rogelberg.
Look for ways to cluster meetings together, leaving large blocks of time free for employees to do more focused work. For example, you might institute a “morning meeting time” rule, where all company meetings are scheduled in the mornings—leaving afternoons free to actually get work done.
Find the meeting cadence that’s right for your meeting
Finding the right meeting cadence can be tricky. But with these strategies, you’re armed with the information you need to find the right meeting cadence for your meetings—and empower your team’s best work in the process.
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