Managing Meeting Mania

May 20, 2014

by Beverly Flaxington

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Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Dear Bev,

My company suffers from meeting mania. In my bosses’ spirit of communication and collaboration, we meet about everything. When I look at my calendar and try to figure out why I am so unproductive, I realize how much time I spend going from meeting to meeting. Sometimes they don’t even have anything to do with my work! Is there a graceful way to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to a meeting invite?

Name withheld


Dear Financial Professional,

This sounds like one of those “good intentions, bad execution” problems. If your culture supports these meetings and the management believes they are best for employees, it would be a career-limiting move to decline invitations!

However, I think many people — in organizations small and large — are frustrated when too many meetings result in too little. Lots of time and talking, but not much to show for it.

You could become a popular figure in your company if you made recommendations for improving meetings and making them more effective. I’ll outline some things here, but caveat it by saying you need to deliver this message in a professional, positive tone. Here are five things that can make meetings more productive:

  1. Create an agenda and circulate it before the meeting to get comments and feedback and to prepare attendees for what will be discussed.
  2. Review the invite list. Make sure only people who need to be there are invited. Others can be updated via memo or conversation after the fact.
  3. Assign a note keeper and time checker. Assign times to each topic and have the time checker keep attendees on track for time and topic. Have the note keeper report back to everyone, via written notes, after the meeting with a complete and organized record of the discussion.
  4. Sometimes in meetings, one or two people dominate the conversation. Experiment with techniques like Round Robin Brainstorming to give each person a chance to participate. With Round Robin, each person speaks and suggests an idea or two, or asks a question. It’s an organized process to get everyone involved. People contribute ideas in turn, but they can choose to “pass” in any go-round. The session is over when everyone has either made a comment, participated or passed.
  5. Establish next steps. If I could, I would post this suggestion twice! It’s amazing how many hours of meetings I have personally observed, and thousands more I have heard about, in which no next step is established. Make sure – before you break – the attendees know the next steps and who should perform them.

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