Are All These Meetings Really Necessary?

Meetings have drastically increased since the pandemic began, now accounting for 21.5 hours of your week. What’s worse, per the National Bureau of Economic Research, attendees per meeting went up by 13.5%. Yet still, we strive for “efficiency” with 15 or 30-minute sessions, and there is a relentless need to pivot, reorient, and prepare for even more meetings.

Why do so many meetings get scheduled? There are many reasons to schedule a meeting. Some are recurring meetings for weekly check-ins and collaborative needs of the team. Some are one-off meetings for non-recurring items, like annual strategic planning, putting out a client fire or team building events. However, most get set because people simply don’t know any better.

Employees get frustrated when:

  1. They think the meeting is a waste of time and they are unsure why they are needed in the room.
  2. They are not sitting at their desk getting actual work done in a timelier manner.
  3. They are not trusted to do their job, by a boss that feels the need to micromanage all decision-making.

Using midlevel salary data from Glassdoor, the cost of a 10-person one-hour meeting is approximately $2,340. If you have 100 people in meetings, that amounts to almost a quarter of a million dollars per week. This doesn’t factor in the opportunity cost of not accomplishing other tasks or lost customer time. “Now that the meeting is over, I can start to get work done” is heard in the hallways. So, what can you do better?

Well-organized meetings create fresh thinking and enable better decisions. To accomplish this, Columbia Business School professor, Christopher Frank, shares a quick four-question process.

  1. What is the meeting purpose – inform or compel? This answer will fundamentally change how you prepare, the information needed, whom you engage, and how you lead the meeting.
  2. What is the issue in seven words or fewer? Have each person articulate why they’re meeting in seven words. If their replies are inconsistent or lengthy, don’t meet. Instead, work on aligning expectations.
  3. Who has already weighed in and what did they have to say? Taking stock of who is already engaged reduces the risk of revisiting existing conversations and moves the dialogue forward.
  4. What could surprise me in this meeting? Asking this question highlights outliers in the data, draws connections between seemingly unrelated conclusions, and focuses the discussion on what’s new.

Try to cap your recurring weekly meetings at 20% of your time. One 1:1 meeting with each of your direct reports, one meeting with your manager, one meeting with the people you are managing as a group, and one meeting with your peers to collaborate on needs between departments. That leaves plenty of other time for the one-off meetings that come up during the normal course of business. This keeps you efficiently working on the most important work that needs to get done and keeps your team efficiently working on their most important work.

When people start checking projects off their to-do list, they feel a sense of accomplishment, the business moves forward, and a healthy vibe is maintained in the office.  As a bonus, you will be shocked how much more work will actually get done!

For a targeted workshop on managing meetings effectively for your team, contact Learning & Organization Development.

 

References:

Harvard Business Review (2022, October 28) Rebecca Hinds and Robert I. Sutton: Meeting Overload is a Fixable Problem

Inc. (2022, October 10) Marcel Schwantes: Tired of Too Many Meetings? This Brilliant 4-Question Meeting May Be Your Solution

Forbes (2022, August 3) George Deeb: Too Many Meetings Suffocate Morale & Productivity

Looking for Career Growth? Upskill!

If you’re not continuously learning new skills, you could become obsolete quicker than you might think. Whether you want to change jobs or prepare for the next-level role, the most important thing to know about upskilling is that every employee needs to be doing it all the time. Jobs are changing as business demands change, and employees are expected to prove their value with increasingly higher expectations.

 

 

Talent is not a finite resource. It can be expanded and built upon, just like anything else. Having the right mindset and a willingness to grow makes all the difference to fully developing your own talent and potential. Employees with a growth mindset are always looking for opportunities to develop, regardless of past achievements. Pushing yourself toward continual growth will inevitably open up new opportunities, even if you have occasional setbacks. It’s all part of the learning curve.

There are plenty of ways to educate yourself and upskill without going back for a traditional undergraduate or graduate degree. Here are five ways to upskill without going back to school.

Professional Development Courses – While taking individual classes may not seem comparable to a four-year degree, showing you’re continuously learning and growing your skills is an attractive quality in an employee. Duke makes it easy to reach your professional development goals with courses available through Learning & Organization Development on a variety of topics. As well, there are hundreds of courses and learning pathways available through Duke’s partnership with LinkedIn Learning.

Staying Abreast of Emerging Technology and Trends – Follow social media accounts or subscribe to email newsletters created by experts in your industry. Start by following the most prominent companies and individuals in your sector and embrace the rabbit hold of learning as you discover increasingly niche content. Attending industry events takes in one step further by providing networking and educational opportunities.

Stretch Assignments – Make a habit of seeking out stretch assignments that teach you new or higher-level skills while also challenging you to demonstrate those skills. Even if the project isn’t highly visible, at least the person who gave you the opportunity will know what you can achieve. The goal is to continue to upskill so you can be considered for the next opportunity.

Mentorships – The right mentor will provide new perspectives on your work and how to uplevel your skills and challenge you to think differently. If you find a mentor who is a senior leader in your organization, they’ll have deeper knowledge of the company’s growth trajectory and what capabilities will be needed as the company grows or shifts strategy.

Certifications – Many careers offer certifications to prove you have both a baseline understanding of what’s required in a job or a mastery of best practices in a certain field. For example, the Project Management Institute offers a PMP certification for project managers, Product School offers product management certifications, SHRM and HRCI offer HR certifications, the Financial Management Association offers finance certifications, and so on. Certifications show you have knowledge and capabilities in a certain field, which makes them especially important if you’re transitioning careers and don’t have a lot of work experience in the new field.

Your next challenge awaits you. Don’t be caught behind when you can uplevel your skills to move ahead. Start taking baby steps now so you can thank yourself five years down the line.

 

References:

Harvard Business Review (2022, December 5) Marlo Lyons:  5 Ways to Acquire New Skills Without Going Back to School

Forbes (2021, August 24) Tim Madden:  Six Ways to UpSkill and Adapt in Your Career

Entrepreneur (2022, June 6) Michelle Arieta:  How to Advance Your Career Through Upskilling and Reskilling in Your Current Role

Srini’s Tech Tip: Excel’s AutoFill Feature

AutoFilling Large Numbering Series (without manually dragging the AutoFill handle)

You may well be aware of an excellent feature and technique in Excel called AutoFill (covered in the Excel Level 1 course).  The traditional method is that you type the first number in the series, then use the AutoFill handle to drag down to whatever ending number you desire.  While this method is okay for a small series, what happens if you need to number several rows?  The manual dragging method is a cumbersome and quite tedious.

Fortunately, Excel provides an easier method for such a task.  You can use the Fill Series dialog box to enter the sequential number series (aka Linear series), and let Excel fill the row numbers.  The example below illustrates only 20 numbers, but it can easily perform a larger series like in the hundreds or thousands of rows.

 

NOTE: Steps 1-5 in the illustration are to be performed. Step 6 is the final result.

Steps to Perform:
  1. Enter a header for the column, like Row Number (cell A1 in the illustration)
  2. Enter the first number and press Enter, but Select the cell again (cell A2 in the illustration)
  3. In the Editing group on the Ribbon, click on the Fill drop down
  4. Select the Series option from the Fill drop down menu
  5. In the Series dialog box, select Columns radio button for series in, and leave the selection as Linear
  6. Enter the Ending number in the sequence for the AutoFill (the illustration shows 20 as the ending number, but you can enter a higher ending number)
  7. Click OK (Excel now has entered all the row numbers from 1 to the Ending Number).

 

NOTE: The illustration shows AutoFilling for 2500 rows.

Strategic Thinking Involves Everyone

If you believe that strategic thinking is only for senior executives, think again. It can, and must, happen at every level of the organization; it’s one of those unwritten parts of all job descriptions. Ignore this fact and you risk getting passed over for a promotion, or having your budget cut because your department’s strategic contribution is unclear.

Strategic thinking is the process of developing and evaluating every decision and action in light of current and future circumstances, the direction you want to go in and the results you want to achieve. It involves being able to apply possibility thinking to every situation. It is not about doing “business as usual” but rather pushing the envelope to see what can be done smarter and what else can be done “instead of”, or as an “add on”, that would maximize opportunities.

Strategic thinking is used to address issues, make decisions and drive innovation. Successful strategic thinking can help maximize resources, add value to businesses and evoke positive change.

Strategic thinkers ground themselves in the values, principles, mission, and vision of the organization.  They have the ability to:

  • see the big picture
  • initiate innovative ideas
  • conceptualize complexity
  • know the right questions to ask
  • think horizontally and simultaneously
  • know when to ask searching questions
  • integrate concepts, however disparate
  • apply lateral thinking to different situations
  • challenge current processes, practices and strategy
  • unearth alternative approaches, solutions or methods

Strategic thinkers also know how to speak the language. They prioritize and sequence their thoughts. They structure their verbal and written communication in a way that helps their audience focus on their core message. They challenge the status quo and get people talking about underlying assumptions. Those that are really skilled walk people through the process of identifying issues, shaping common understanding, and framing strategic choices.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to “Harnessing a Strategic Mindset.”

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