In a previous post, I discussed how to conduct effective meetings. However, if you repeatedly find yourself in inefficient meetings, you need strategies to deal with it.
Although this can be difficult, obviously you should first try to change the meetings culture of your company. In the meanwhile, or as a last resort, consider the following four ways to deal with ineffective meetings.
- Enforce your own time box. If you know meetings tend to drag on: point out in the beginning of the meeting that you have to leave at a specific time. Refer to a prior engagement. If the time draws near and the meeting’s purpose has not yet been achieved, remind everyone that you are going to leave soon. This may help push the meeting in the right direction.
- Limit attendance. It is often stressful to sit in meetings when discussions derail and become irrelevant, especially when you have a bunch of more important tasks waiting at your desk. Ask if you can be called in for items relevant to you. If there aren’t any more items on the agenda where you are required; excuse yourself and leave the meeting.
- Question the purpose. If you are called to a meeting without an expressed purpose or agenda, ask the person summoning the meeting what the purpose is. Ask why your attendance is required.
- Come well prepared. If you think there will be discussions about certain decisions: talk to people before the meeting. If you know what you want: prepare a statement and think about your arguments before the meeting. If others are not as well prepared, it is likely your proposal is approved. Unless, of course, it’s completely ludicrous :-)
As a final advice, think twice before bringing your own work to a meeting. This might be ok. On the other hand, it may very well be considered disrespectful and self-centered. You can even miss important discussions and decisions and really make yourself look like a jerk. In other words: be selective in what meetings you attend, but when you do, concentrate on the meeting.