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Meetings Redefined: Turning Time Waste into Team Strength

The estimated reading time for this post is 10 minutes

There is a time and a place for a good quality meeting amongst team members and principals.  But if you’ve ever felt the agony of enduring a seemingly endless and unproductive sales meeting, you’re not alone.. This sentiment resonates with countless sales professionals who find themselves trapped in meetings devoid of purpose and productivity.  I call this building a culture of meetingitis. 

If you’re spending more than 10% of your week in scheduled, standing internal meetings, you’re likely in a “Death by Meeting” culture.   

Here are some points on wasted meetings with some touching on the costs of wasted meetings, gleaned from Harvard Business Review resources. 

  • Research indicates that executives often rate their own meetings positively, while attendees report frustration with issues such as irrelevant agenda items, lengthy duration, and lack of focus.
  • Approximately 23 hours per week are spent in meetings by executives on average, with about eight hours considered unproductive, contributing to an estimated annual cost of over $30 billion in wasted time in the United States alone. Despite these costs, organizations often lack formal training or feedback mechanisms for improving meeting effectiveness, and 75% of surveyed individuals report receiving no formal training on conducting or participating in meetings.
  • Meeting facilitation strategies include promoting a sense of presence, acknowledging individual and group achievements, managing conflicts, and adopting a supportive role to encourage genuine discussion and commitment to outcomes.
  • Regular reassessment and feedback loops are essential for continuous improvement, as leaders must adapt their meeting strategies based on ongoing evaluation and input from participants.
  • Meeting Duration Increase: Executives spend nearly 23 hours a week in meetings on average, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.
  • Impact on Solo Work: Every minute spent in a wasteful meeting eats into solo work essential for creativity and efficiency.
  • Deep Thinking Interruption: Dysfunctional meeting behaviors are associated with interruptions in “deep work,” impacting focus and productivity.
  • Negative Outcomes: Dysfunctional meeting behaviors, such as wandering off topic, complaining, and criticizing, are linked to lower levels of market share, innovation, and employment stability.
  • Employee Satisfaction: A survey of 182 senior managers across industries revealed that 65% feel meetings keep them from completing their own work, 71% find meetings unproductive and inefficient, 64% believe meetings come at the expense of deep thinking, and 62% think meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.
  • Organizational Impact: Changing the approach to meetings can lead to significant improvements, with one example showing a 42% increase in team collaboration, a 32% increase in psychological safety to express opinions, and a 28% increase in team performance after rethinking the firm’s approach to meetings.
  • Meeting Categories: Meetings are categorized into three types of problems: wasters of group time, wasters of individual time, and wasters of both individual and group time.
  • Survey Findings: In a survey of nearly 200 senior executives, only 17% reported that their meetings are generally productive uses of group and individual time.
  • Impact on Personal Time: Excessive meetings force individuals to make trade-offs concerning how and when to accomplish their solo work, leading to potential burnout and turnover.

So let’s talk about how to transform your  meetings from team morale killers into powerful tools for building a high-production, thriving Revenue Operations Machine.

The Problem with Traditional Team Meetings

Sales meetings often devolve into pointless gatherings marked by negativity and a lack of direction. Let’s explore the common issues that render these sessions counterproductive.

  • No Purpose: Many meetings are held without a clear reason, leading to inevitable time wastage. If the purpose of the meeting is that “we’ve always had the XXXX meeting at this date and time) then you’re wasting your time. A lack of purpose leaves participants disengaged, viewing the meeting as a mandatory chore rather than a valuable opportunity for collaboration and growth.

  • Lack of Preparation or Structure: Managers often enter meetings unprepared, contributing to a lack of focus and value. This lack of preparation not only undermines the manager’s credibility but also sends a clear message to the team that their time is not a priority.  Poor preparation is even overtaken when the structure is not defined in advance so that all participants are prepared to follow the structure.

  • Tangential Discussions: Without a predetermined agenda or structure, meetings easily veer off into irrelevant tangents, further diminishing their impact. Tangential discussions waste time and create confusion, leaving participants wondering about the relevance of the meeting to their day-to-day responsibilities.

  • Negative Atmosphere: Unprepared managers may inadvertently create a hostile environment, damaging team morale and productivity. The focus on poor performance and the public scrutiny of individuals fosters a culture of fear rather than one of collaboration and improvement.

  • Insincerity – As most of your team come to the meeting because they “have” to, they’re not really interested in positively contributing to the meeting environment. As a result, these types of meetings become places for political gamesmanship between team members.

Turning the Tide: Four Rules for Effective Team Meetings

Rejuvenate your team meetings with these four simple but powerful rules.

  • Purpose-Driven Meetings: Only convene meetings when there’s a clear reason, avoiding unnecessary, routine gatherings. Whether it’s a strategic planning session, a review of market trends, or a celebration of successes, a purpose-driven meeting sets the tone for productivity and engagement.

  • Preparation is Key: Cancel meetings if not adequately prepared, ensuring each session adds value to team members. Managers must invest the time to thoroughly prepare, crafting a focused agenda that addresses the team’s needs and aligns with the overall goals of the organization.

  • Group Focus: Team meetings are not platforms for individual coaching; address collective needs and issues. Individual coaching sessions should be conducted separately, allowing the team meeting to focus on overarching themes, strategies, and collaborative initiatives that benefit the entire group.

  • Time Management: Set and adhere to time limits—salespeople should be selling, marketers should be building brand equity, service managers should be talking to customers.  None of them should be stuck in lengthy meetings. Respect for participants’ time fosters a culture of efficiency and demonstrates a commitment to maximizing the team’s productivity.

Crafting Valuable Sales Meetings

Focus on content that enhances team performance and morale.

  • Core Content Review: Cover essential topics like market conditions, new products, and sales skills in each meeting. Provide valuable insights that directly contribute to the improvement of individual and team performance. Utilize data and real-life examples to make the content relatable and actionable.

  • Recognition and Reinforcement: Acknowledge and reinforce seller achievements, leaving the team on a positive note. Celebrate milestones, highlight successes, and create a culture of appreciation. Recognizing individual and team efforts boosts morale and motivates team members to strive for excellence.

  • Minimal Housekeeping: Limit housekeeping notes and announcements to a minimum or convey them through memos. While essential, administrative matters should not overshadow the primary purpose of the meeting. Streamline communication channels for logistical information, allowing the meeting to prioritize substantive content.

  • Use an Email:  How many times have you left a meeting and said, “that could have been an email”. Sadly, this has happened too many times to me than I can count.  So if a meeting is to be held on one narrow topic and it’s really a dissemination of information then use an email instead of a meeting.  After discussion has started due to the email then, maybe, you’ll be ready for a meeting. 

The Impact of Effective Meetings

Here’s what happens when you have great meetings:

  • Team Building: Your meetings become team-building sessions rather than tools for control. Collaborative activities, brainstorming sessions, and open discussions that encourage team members to share insights and experiences are just natural in and outside of the meeting. As your team feels more cohesive, a sense of unity and camaraderie enhances overall team performance.

  • Increased Morale: Witness a positive shift in team enthusiasm and engagement, eliminating the Monday morning deadwood. By addressing the root causes of negativity and inefficiency, you create an environment where team members look forward to meetings as opportunities for growth, collaboration, and celebration.
  • Clear Communication & Accountabilities: As everyone on your team knows each person’s role and thinking they can then communicate with each other “outside” of the meeting and solve the problems that need to be solved.  So you’ll need less meetings as the team will function better together and be more accountable to each other.

The Strategic Approach to Sales Meetings

To further enhance the effectiveness of meetings, consider adopting a strategic approach. Begin by aligning each meeting with broader organizational goals. For instance, if the company is launching a new product, dedicate a meeting to thoroughly discussing its features, benefits, and the strategy behind its creation. This ensures that every meeting contributes directly to the company’s success.

Leveraging Technology for Virtual Collaboration

In an era where remote work is increasingly prevalent, incorporating technology into your team meetings can bridge geographical gaps and foster seamless collaboration. Explore virtual meeting platforms, interactive presentation tools, and collaborative whiteboards to create an engaging and participatory virtual environment. Embrace innovation to make your meetings adaptable to the evolving landscape of work.  But please, please, please don’t book back to back to back virtual meetings.

Continuous Learning Initiatives

Transform your team meetings into hubs of continuous learning. Integrate training sessions that focus on sharpening key sales skills, such as objection handling, copy writing, effective communication, and relationship-building. By providing ongoing educational opportunities, you not only enhance individual capabilities but also contribute to the long-term growth and success of your sales team.

I used to run a weekly book club with my team as part of our ongoing training.  The team chose the topic, I chose the books and we got a chance to learn from each other and bond over items that made each of us better in our work.

Feedback Loops for Improvement

Establish a feedback loop within your meetings to gather insights from team members by bringing “guests” to your team meetings on occasion. Encourage open discussions about the effectiveness of current strategies, potential challenges, and innovative ideas. This two-way communication fosters a culture of collaboration and ensures that the meetings evolve based on the dynamic needs of the team and not some crazy agenda of the leader..

Case Studies and Success Stories

Everyone likes a good story.  So, incorporate real-world case studies and success stories into your meetings to illustrate best practices and inspire the team. Highlighting concrete examples of successful endeavors not only educates team members but also instills a sense of possibility and achievement. Consider inviting top-performing team members to share their experiences and strategies.  But don’t forget to include case studies or stories about transactions, relationships or matters that didn’t go so well as you can often learn from mistakes and massive blowups. 

The Role of Leadership in Meetings

Tone from the Top is not just a saying, it’s the absolute truth. Leaders shape  the tone and impact of meetings. Leaders should embody the values of preparation, positivity, and collaboration. Lead by example in adhering to meeting rules and demonstrating a commitment to creating a constructive and uplifting environment. When leaders actively participate and set the right tone, it positively influences the entire team.

When working with a company that used EOS as its main principles, I used to ensure that each team member had a chance to chair  our weekly meeting.  Thereby allowing each person the understanding and opportunity as to what it was like to be responsible for managing their colleagues.  Over time, this meeting became very collegial and each person learned how to build and run effective meetings.

Evolving with Feedback

Regularly seek feedback on the effectiveness of your meetings. Conduct anonymous surveys, 1 on 1s  or open forums to understand the team’s perspective on your meeting structure, content, and overall impact. Use this feedback to continuously refine and optimize your approach, ensuring that your sales meetings remain dynamic and aligned with the evolving needs and expectations of your team.

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