March 14, 2010
Make profits, not meetings
I never tire of talking about getting out from under the oppressive thumb of one's weekly meeting roster. In the past, I've written about stealth ways to multitask during meetings and block off chunks of your calendar for project work before your meeting-happy colleagues hijack your schedule.
But how about managers? What can they do to help cut down the overgrown thicket of meetings they and their teams contend with week after week?
Florian Becker, a director at the software company Citrix, recently told me about the proactive anti-meeting stance he's taken at work.
"Because I don't like to attend meetings, I strive to be very crisp and clear in my written communication and I encourage my team to do the same," Becker said.
After losing one of his direct reports to layoffs last year, Becker was eager to find ways he and his team could work more efficiently. Opting out of non-essential meetings to which he and his team were invited was one obvious solution. Instead of blindly accepting each meeting invite, Becker and his people now ask if there's something specific they can help the person who called the meeting accomplish or some piece of information they can provide -- preferably via quick call or e-mail.
But Becker soon began to wonder whether the weekly one-on-one meetings he held with each of his six direct reports also could be shelved.
"They weren't productive," Becker said of the 30- to 60-minute meetings. "There wouldn't be any action items, only status updates."
So Becker did away with his team's one-on-one meetings, instead asking his direct reports to send him clear but brief status updates by e-mail. He's also enacted an open-door policy and encourages his team members to call on him any time they need his input or guidance. But there's a caveat.
"I hold them responsible to not just say, 'Hey, I need to talk," but to say, 'Here's what I need to talk about and here are some possible solutions to this problem,'" Becker explained.
In other words, he expects his team to include action-oriented suggestions with their requests for his assistance or feedback. And, to cut down on the daily deluge of e-mails, he prefers they do it in person or by phone.
"It's been really helpful so far," Becker said. "It's freed up several hours a week on my calendar."
How about you? What steps have you taken to minimize all the meetings on your calendar so you can get some actual work done?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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