If you’re a manager, one of the core activities in your business life is meetings. That’s what you do. You schedule meetings, prepare for meetings, run meetings, follow up meetings, go to meetings, implement what’s been decided at meetings, and then do it again…constantly.
If you’re a manager, you have what Paul Graham of Y Combinator calls a manager’s schedule. Your day is full of meetings, some short, some long, usually a lot of them. You look at your calendar and see a lot of meeting commitments in a single day. And it is good. That’s part of your gauge of success—to do the things the company hired you to do.
Another part of the equation is those of you who are thinkers, creators, or “makers,” in Graham’s words. You keep a maker’s schedule. In your perfect world, you look at your calendar and see vast blocks of time with relatively few meeting commitments in a single day and you get to sit in one place and think, and create, and make. And it is good. That’s part of your gauge of success—to do the things the company hired you to do.
As the manager—the one who is typically calling the meetings, the one who is in charge—you have to make the decision whether the meetings you’re calling are truly necessary. How many could you really do without?
I hear from employees at a variety of organizations that there are far too many meetings with far too little impact, usually referred to as “a total waste of time.” Can the substance of the meeting be handled in a memo? Conference call? Email? Group IM? Skype? Google Hangout? Or in any of the other numerous ways to connect these days?
As a manager, why should you care about any of this? Because of the way makers think.
The maker needs a long runway, time to get their process started before being fully engaged in it. Once they’re airborne, they want to stay up there for as long as possible, losing themselves in the thinking, the creating, the making.
Constant interruptions of meetings or meetings scheduled “at the wrong time” in the maker’s mind, means that hours of productivity can be lost in a single day. For example, meetings at 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. can easily result in half a day or more wasted.
Managers may schedule meetings to meet their own purposes without realizing that they may actually be hurting their own purposes. Product launches can easily be delayed when the people making the products are pulled every which way, left without large enough blocks of time to work.
Ask yourself a question: Keeping in mind the participants, when is actually the best time to hold the meeting that’s on your mind?
It may be that you, the manager, has little control over the timing due to pressure from above coming down on you. And that’s understandable.
I close with this simple suggestion: Is it possible that the timing of your meeting will have a far greater impact on the production of the company’s product or the delivery of a service that you’re not even aware of?