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Other than dealing with an overload of e-mail, the other jail that I hear about consistently is the meeting jail (that is when you spend several hours a day in back-to-back meetings). If most people concur that meetings are not used effectively—or are even abused—why do we keep setting up a profusion of them?
Meetings are sometimes used as substitutes for having good information-sharing processes and technologies, best practices for communicating, or clear decisionmaking processes. Here are a few strategies that can help minimize the number of meetings you have with your staff and to make the meetings that you do have far more effective:
1. Find ways to communicate information without necessarily getting everyone in the same room or on the same conference call. Tools such as wikis, blogs, and Microsoft SharePoint can help streamline the information sharing process, turning it into a 24/7, on-demand activity and creating a team "memory" that can be leveraged again and again.
2. How is the decisionmaking process currently working with your team? Is it ad-hoc or structured and clear to everyone? Is it efficient or is it taking too long? If you don’t know the answer or are not happy with the answer, further exploration is imperative. Instead of having long meetings with endless decisionmaking discussions, get clear and save time.
3. More can be delegated than most of us would admit, including both tasks and decisions. Instead of spending time with endless group discussions, let the person closest to the issues make the decision. Delegate and then coach to build individual and team skills that can be leveraged again and again.
4. Develop a results-driven culture. Communicating and discussing objectives is more efficient and leaves room for your team to take initiatives and be creative.
5. Involve your team in the process of making meetings effective. The collective wisdom of the team is likely to prevail and bring about compelling results.
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