I have never understood the obsession with hour-long company meetings in our culture.
As an entrepreneur, I could think of one hundred different ways I would rather spend my time. Why not have action-packed, ten-minute meetings? Why not just get in, get out, and move on?
But it's not just the "standard length" of meetings that bothers me--it's the frequency. So many companies in the business world have meetings on top of meetings to the point of absurdity.
How is any work being done if your day is booked up? While all these companies are in back-to-back meetings all day, their competition is eating their lunch.
Here's how I think about meetings, and more specifically, when I would prefer for them to take place during business hours:
There's only a certain amount of time per day you can interact with a customer.
Every business is different, and some operate on different schedules than the operating business world. But for the most part, all the action happens during key business hours.
For my business specifically, I know that our sales and customer service phones start ringing around 10:00 A.M. Eastern Time. So in our case, I would prefer have any necessary meetings take place first thing in the morning. That way, people can be ready to play their positions when volume starts picking up.
Unfortunately, most middle managers (and even upper-level management) don't think about things this way.
Instead, I'll hear about sales people sitting their desk at 11:00 A.M. doing their expense reports, or worse, walking into a meeting to discuss expense reports.
The fire-in-my-belly entrepreneur in me has a hard time rationalizing why that's a good use of time. 11:00 A.M. is when you should be knocking down doors. That's prime time--not the time to be doing a task that could be done early in the morning, after the work day, or late at night.
Honestly, it comes down to the ownership you have over your work.
Don't waste time with too many meetings, especially during prime business hours. This is something every founder, CEO, and company leader needs to instill into the core of your company culture.
Train your employees to cut the small talk in meetings and refrain from equivocating every issue on the agenda. What's the point of going around the room to find out everyone's feelings on an issue? Most business decisions are not made by a collective, so why pretend that's the way things work?
It's a huge waste of time, and it breeds a culture of indecision.
Instead, meet long enough to cover the important items, then keep moving with the rest of your day.
But more importantly, whether you're on the sales team, working in any customer-facing role, or manning the phones to provide customer service, be conscious of when those meetings take place. Do they need to happen at 11:00 A.M. when phones are ringing off the hook? When customers are emailing you with questions? When your business should be operating at full speed?
I sure hope not.
There's a belief in the business world that Mondays and Fridays are actually bad days to have meetings, not because they're unproductive, but because you won't have as great of an attendance: people tend to take Fridays or Mondays off.
As an entrepreneur and someone used to working normal business hours, and then working on the business outside of business hours, this is astonishing to me. It's also a direct reflection of the culture you put in place for your company. All of these things I've mentioned--timing of meetings, length, frequency, and even attitude--have far less to do with "meetings" themselves and much more to do with the way your team operates.
Meetings will always happen. Check-ins are good.
But, as a leader, I would encourage you to be aware of when they happen, how often they happen, and how your team members think about them in the first place.
A meeting is not a place to gather around, share what happened this past weekend, and let the conversation steer the outcome.
It's a time to get in, get out, and get back to work.