To Meet or Not to Meet, that is the Question

I’ve noticed something recently as more and more people are coming back to the office post-Covid, we seem to have changed our approach to meetings, and I was wondering if you are seeing similar and what your plan is for the upcoming year.

Pre-Covid, I had lots and lots of prescheduled in-person meetings. Seemingly moving from one conference room to another with my laptop in hand. My focus time or time to work on my projects was scarce and usually relegated to personal time on evenings and weekends and I was hardly available to my teams for a quick call or Teams meeting to discuss something in real-time.

Then, during Covid when we were all remote, I increased the number of meetings but decreased the length of meetings. I quickly found that more meetings but shorter duration meetings, were the ideal cadence for managing a remote workforce. The real benefit however was having more availability for my team on-the-fly. The quantity and value of these quick checkpoints were invaluable.

Now that we’re spending more time in the office (more but not all), I’m sensing a return to the way things were pre-Covid and I’m not sure that’s the right answer.

My teams seemed to thrive with more, but shorter meetings and I think I’m going to keep that approach even as we return to the office. Maybe more complex topics will require longer meetings just to get through all the details, especially if there are several people involved. However, I think that 1:1’s and check-ins with team members can be as frequent and less time-consuming as during Covid. My sales teams liked that I was available for a quick chat, text, Teams meeting, or phone call before or after a client meeting so that we can strategize in real-time. I can’t do that if I’m booked every hour on the hour.

I sought out some advice on the topic from HBR and found a great article by Elizabeth Grace Saunders from Real Life E Time Coaching… There was a great graphic that I’ve inserted below that answers the first question, should I hold a meeting or not?

w150317 saunders shouldholdmeeting 1024x409

I think Elizabeth nails the questions to ask and decision flow in terms of whether or not to schedule a meeting in the first place, as well as alternative methods of communicating with our teams.

Once you go through this, then you need to figure out what sort of meeting you are going to have, the agenda, time allotment, and communication method.

I think for the upcoming year, I’m going to start with the following method:

  • Be judicious in scheduling any meetings in the first place and use other communication methods to transfer or receive information with my team.
  • Use other tools at my disposal such as chat and text more regularly and avoid meetings when possible.
  • Monthly scheduled 1:1s with members of my team, held in-person or through video but shorten them when possible. Only talking about the things my team members want to talk about or topics I need to communicate. Strict agendas and adherence to time frames.
  • Schedule “open office time” each day (and share my calendar) so members of the team know they can reach me for impromptu discussions (via phone, virtual or in-person).
  • Block out my focus time to work on the projects.
  • For my lower-level projects, requiring less focus and able to be interrupted, I’ll leave those as tasks and not book project time in my calendar. Doing this allows for more on-the-fly meetings and discussions with my team when they need it.

I think this allows for a balance between me having the time to get done what I need to while allowing for structured 1:1’s and open availability for my team to connect with me when they need to.

What about you? What is your meeting plan for next year? I’d love to get your best practices!