Have you ever heard the phrase “People don’t leave companies. They leave leaders?” I hope so, because it seems that every aspiring business guru has written, linked, blogged, or complained about the problem. Good managers like to meet. Poor managers like to meet…..A LOT. Good meetings are productive. Bad meetings suck the very will to live from you. When you strip all of the fluff away, it seems that the purpose of most bad meetings is simply to schedule another bad meeting.
A natural tendency of managers is to “manage” instead of actually LEAD. But isn’t that what they’re hired to do? Well, yes. And, no. While it may vary depending on the company and the roles of employees that you lead, nothing builds respect and loyalty quite like seeing your leader “in action” – down in the trenches, performing the job duties of his/her subordinates, with excellence and a cheerful spirit. Obviously, a leader can’t spend excessive time doing this, but a good leader will jump into the fray from time to time. Not only does this establish credibility with other employees, it keeps your skills sharp. Who do you think has more respect from the people he/she leads: the Captain who charges into battle with them, or the one who barks orders from the rear and watches the fight unfold from a safe distance?
There is no doubt that meetings are a source of contention for employees around the world, especially in the USA. Meeting after meeting after meeting. The horror stories are endless. The eye rolling is legendary. And the time wasted is astounding. While some bad managers can be totally withdrawn from the people they supposedly lead, more often than not they strive to prove their importance to their own supervisors by frequently meeting with subordinates under the guise of “accountability.” They then send off a nice, neat spreadsheet with notes about what was discussed and how they “strategized” and “dug deeper.” I’m not discounting accountability, updates, and strategy sessions. But, to have the same meeting week after week, just for the sake of meeting, eventually leads to resentment and burn out. As performance ultimately declines, the bad manager institutes even more meetings and <gasp> micromanaging becomes a weight too heavy for the employee to bear. If you want to micromanage something, micromanage the processes of your company, NOT your employees!
Keep your meetings relatively short, if at all possible. No longer than 1 hour for one on ones, but ideally 30 minutes. Conference calls should definitely be capped at 30 minutes. Have your system in place where you see who has called in on your conference call line. There are many free services that do this. That way, you don’t have to call roll. Don’t make small talk – even saying things like “hi, how are you?” lead to responses that simply burn through more time that is cutting into the productivity of the employees’ day. It may not seem like much, but if you take up 20 seconds of each person’s time with small talk, that’s 10 minutes of absolutely wasted time if you have 30 people on the line! Have an agenda, and stick to it. Be prepared! If you want to keep everyone engaged in the conversation, DON’T read from a script – have notes to follow, but speak like you’re having a conversation.
Hire good people. Train your people good. Have clear expectations and processes in place to follow. But, trust your people to do what’s right! Micromanage the process, not the people. Reward them for a job well done – even small victories. Holding people to account is crucial, and letting people go for non-performance is a part of business. But micromanaging and meeting people to death is a sure fire way to run off the most talented among you.
Do you have good advice for meetings and managing? We’d love to hear them!