Managers are experts at attending meetings. There always seems to be time to attend them, but never time to complete the action items assigned during prior meetings. Wouldn’t it be better to skip out on the meeting, complete the assignment and have the deliverable in the organizer’s inbox before the meeting ends?
Joe Kerr: I’d rather skip out on the meeting and play golf! Seriously though, I get most of my work done during meetings. As long as I have my Blackberry, meeting time is productive time. No one can bother me, and I have a real knack for picking up keywords from the participants and throwing in my two cents (more like a buck fifty!) every so often just to keep the meeting flowing.
Wanda B. Goode: In so many environments, the stigma associated with missing a meeting is worse than for missing a deliverable. I use the word stigma because punishment is far too strong a word. There is typically no punishment for either.
It’s fairly common for people to spend their entire days in meetings and get no work done. This is a sign of a dysfunctional organization. I think one common mistake we managers make is to let things slide, because team members are overworked, or maybe we’re just afraid to address them. We set the precedent and the undesirable behavior is repeated until it becomes ingrained in the corporate culture.
It’s tough to change culture, but the first step is to start with ourselves. We need to show up on time for meetings, be present, and complete our action items. We need to reduce the number of meetings we attend so we can get our work done. Then we can work on turning the others around.
People gravitate to what is comfortable. Assisting them with prioritization helps a bit, and should be pursued. To answer you initial question, I have asked team members to skip out on meetings in order to complete tasks. I’ve had to be crystal clear about what needed to be completed in the next hour though. If not I’ve found that the task took a back seat to something else.
We need to do more than just help with prioritization. Team members need to believe that the tasks are worth doing. There must be significant reward and/or punishment (preferably the former) to spur action. It’s the manager’s job to point that out and drive it home.
Interested in making your meetings more productive? Check out this post.