"The way meetings are run is a microcosm of your company culture as a whole. Approaching the problem by scheduling another series of meetings is just ludicrous. You must start at the very core of your business and shift every assumption, from how you interact with technology, to how many people should be involved in business decisions, to where meetings are held, the length, everything. Otherwise, you're just putting a bandage on an injury that really requires a trip to the ER," Tate says.
Be the Change You Want to See
The good news is that each individual employee can help their organization shift away from a meeting-centric culture and contribute to a larger cultural change just by taking a few simple actions.
"First and foremost, question the value of every meeting you're asked to attend. Before you hit 'accept,' ask yourself, "What the return on investment will be? What will you get for your time, your energy? What will you forgo working on to go to this meeting? Ask yourself if your presence will contribute or add value? Will this be a rehash of the last five meetings?," Tate says.
Another crucial question to ask is, "Who will be disappointed if I don't attend?" says Tate.
"You need to be clear about who you are 'letting down' by not attending. And you need to be able to articulate that confidently. What is the best use of your time that will add maximum value to the work that you do? Or will I be disappointing the right person? Am I disappointing my manager? Direct report? Child? Yourself? So many times, meetings are just about politics -- who's there, who's not. That's not valuable for businesses. You can decline graciously by saying, 'I don't see where I can add any meaningful value to the conversation. Instead, I'm going to be working on X, Y, Z, and this is why it is more valuable than the actual meeting," Tate says.
Doing so not only empowers the individual, it empowers their coworkers, their managers and their direct reports to start declining meetings, and forces the organization to be much more efficient and streamlined when meetings are mandatory, Tate says.
When Meetings Are a Must
That's not to say that meetings can't be useful or produce value; in fact, meetings can be one of the most powerful tools businesses have to get things done and drive success, says Paul Axtell, a management consultant and personal effectiveness trainer, and author of "Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations," they just have to be done right.