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Is this meeting pressing? Do we really need to have it?

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Three women and two men seated around a table in mid discussion.

In one of our previous blogs, we introduced the 8Ps – the ingredients of getting the most out of your meetings. This blog post drills into one of these ingredients: PRESSING. Is this meeting really necessary? Does this issue require us to come together or is there another way to achieve our goal?

Pre-pandemic, we had slipped into the habit of having meetings every time we had a question, a doubt, a decision, a disagreement, a need. Lockdowns put the brakes on this go-to response. As the world begins to create new routines, we have the opportunity to reset and be conscious with creating new habits, of placing value on our time and the time of our colleagues with less meetings and ensuring the ones we have really count.

There are two fundamental drivers behind having a meeting – either a relationship-based reason or a task-based issue. Strong relationships are essential and generally a meeting motivation with an essentially human connection at its core requires a meeting of some sort (whether it be a phone call, a face-to-face or an online meeting) – whether it’s about strengthening a relationship or healing a damaged one, whether it’s about challenging group conversations, rebuilding trust or another complex human resource issue. This one is relatively clear cut.

The other driver – task-based issues – is murkier and often provides fertile ground for alternatives to meetings to keep our schedules clearer. There are some questions which can guide us:

  1. Is the meeting because I need information?
    Does it need a real-time meeting – is it time sensitive? Is there a way you could get the information other than a two-way conversation or meeting? Could it be done using an online chat program if your company uses one? Or if you are seeking feedback on a written document or asking for information which the other person may need to look up, perhaps email could be a good option?

  2. Am I feeling stuck and looking to show progress or find help with getting unstuck?
    Sometimes we are tempted to organise a meeting when we feel unmotivated or unable to complete a task or project. Unless you need information or a brainstorming session, organising a meeting at this point would be a waste of your time and your colleagues’ time. Go for a walk, do some strategic thinking, breakdown the tasks into smaller pieces. Find an alternative way to break your impasse.

  3. Is the meeting to provide progress reports, status updates or accountability checks?
    Often in these types of meetings, one person provides their update while the rest of the team stays passive for most of the meeting. There may be other ways to achieve this goal – using minuting or project management software, pre-recorded video or audio updates that people can listen to at convenient times, or brief email reports with top line updates.

  4. Am I briefing the team or a team member on a new project or piece of work?
    This can be a situation where a meeting will enable everyone to get on the same page, ask questions, set expectations and work out a plan together to get the project off to a smooth start and establish communication channels. It will depend on the working relationship and the complexity of the briefing. Providing pre-reading can sometimes help ensure that the meeting is productive and can be kept short rather than going through a lengthy briefing document together.

  5. Do I need ideas from others?
    If the task requires brainstorming, collaboration, innovation or creativity, where the dynamics of the participants bouncing off each other is an integral part of achieving the objectives, a meeting can be the best approach.

We’ve been handed an opportunity to rethink our approach to whether we really need meetings. By turning our mind to whether this is a pressing issue which really needs a two-way communication, we can ensure that we retain our energy for the meetings we do need to have.

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  • Bec Ordish avatar
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    Bec Ordish
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