How to get out of what seem to be useless meetings

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In previous blog entries, I propose a simple set of questions to determine the usefulness or uselessness of a meeting.  In today’s post, I’ll help you use this framework to get out of the useless meetings!   Ready?  Let’s go!

Ok, so the first thing to do is to become familiar with the set of questions you need to ask before accepting or walking into the meeting:

Do the other attendees bring some value to me?  (Y/N)

Do I bring value to the other attendees? (Y/N)

Does the anticipated value of the meeting exceed what I can get accomplished if I don’t attend? (Y/N)

Will the meeting content get me un-stuck, make my work better, easier, more efficient, or compelling? (Y/N)

Will I have to do something differently in my job as a result of the meeting (Y/N)

Now think of a meeting that you consider worthless and ask yourself these five questions in regards to this meeting.

If you answer “Yes” to 3 or more questions:

If you answer “Yes” to at least three of these questions, you should probably go to the meeting.  It probably isn’t worthless when you answer “Yes” to at least three of these questions!  Go to the meeting and add value to the others!  Learn from the others!  Figure out what it is that will make your job better!  Understand deeply what you have to do differently.  Embrace this meeting!  It’s a good one!  Make the most of it!  Embrace this!  Then ask yourself after the meeting – was I right?  Can I answer “Yes” to at least three of the five questions?  If so – keep doing whatever was done in that meeting.  It’s a real gem.

If you answer “Yes” to 1 or 2 of the questions:

Even if you can answer “Yes” to one or two of the questions, it may be useful, but it does call into question whether a meeting is the best format.

For example, if you bring value to the other attendees, but they don’t bring value to you, what’s going on in this meeting?  Are they looking for a decision from you?  Are you teaching them something?  Could your decision just be done over email, blog or v-log?  Can you express what you have to communicate asynchronously (that is, so that it is accessible by the attendees at any time), in case those who get value from you can’t attend?

Another example:  If others bring value to you, but not you to them, then can they provide that information and rationale through other formats?  In the case where you have other things to do that make for time better spent (from question 4), can you get that value from the meeting notes?  (Yes, this could actually mean that someone – you – will use the meeting notes!)

Another example: If the only question you answered “Yes” to is that the meeting will get you un-stuck in some capacity (but you don’t bring anything to that meeting and others don’t bring anything to you) – is this simply a decision that needs to be made?  Could that decision just be communicated to you so you can start moving forward on that decision?

So when you can answer “Yes” to only one of the questions, the basic effort you need to make to get out of the meeting is to identify what that one thing was that would make it useful, and see if you can get the information, decision-making, or value through other channels that don’t include sitting in a room with several other people.

In my next article, I’ll discuss what to do if you answer “Yes” to none — zero, zilch — of the five questions.  Now that’s a really useless meeting!

Try out these criteria for attending meetings.  Did it help clarify the anticipated and actual value of the meeting?  What was it that made the meeting good or bad?

Criteria to generate a virtuous cycle for meetings

A leading indicator for team performance: Chart your meeting quality

More reasons mandatory meetings are bad for you and bad for your team

Making it a mandatory meeting sabotages the meeting

The first step to getting out of the mandatory meeting cycle: Don’t call meetings if you were planning one-way communication

Why asking for loyalty discourages high performers

Loyalty is a lagging indicator, so don’t ask for loyalty and expect it

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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