My meetings are time wasters: How do I shut up ‘Dumper’?
Thursday, August 9, 2007/
Dear Aunty B,
My Monday morning staff meeting is an utter waste of time. The same sales guy keeps dominating week after week, usually dumping a whole lot of complaints and (stupid) ideas on the rest of us. How can I get him to shut up so I can hear what everyone else has to say?
St Leonards, NSW
I feel for you, struggling through the meeting and resisting the overwhelming urge to yell “SHUT UP!!!”
But Tim, you try selling. Then you will understand that sales people need to download from time to time. Your job, Tim, is to encourage them NOT to do the major dump in front of the whole team on a Monday morning. It sets up a negative mindset for the whole week.
A great, productive staff meeting where you tear through the agenda does not allow for a major solo act. Unproductive meetings are a waste of time, money and human capital. You want information shared and then it’s on with the job.
There’s a catchy term for short, sharp meetings doing the rounds at the moment: ‘Blackjack’ meetings. They run for 21 minutes only, they have an agenda (discussed well in advance). I find 21 minutes is an extremely good length of time to discuss three key issues or so, draw in short, succinct, useful feedback, comments and plans.
Plus there is the novelty factor in getting staff to try and stick to the time limit.
If they don’t you could try what Google’s vice president of search, Marissa Meyer, does. She has 70 meetings a week. Many of her meetings are in five or 10-minute blocks and participants are reminded of how much time they have with her by a clock projected on the wall, doing the countdown.
As for making sure everyone gets a say, don’t blame the sales guy, it is up to you as chair of the meeting to draw in the more introverted participants. Ask the quiet ones direct open questions: don’t wait for them to come forward, you’ll be surprised how different a Blackjack staff meeting can be.
- Never have a meeting without a clear agenda (item 1: ‘marketing update’ doesn’t cut it)
- Appoint a time keeper
- Ban mobile phones and BlackBerries
- Stay on the topic
- Be ruthless with timewasters
- Follow up on plans
- If certain agenda items don’t involve all staff, design the meeting so that they can leave and get on with it
- Have fewer meetings
- Start and finish on time
As for Dumper, you need to set up a time to have a regular catch up. If he needs to download, maybe it should be a quick cup of coffee. Maybe before that Monday sales meeting.
Luv ya and leaving ya, Tim.