“I’m in back-to-back meetings.” Am I supposed to be impressed?

By Bob Morrell on December 3, 2020

The pandemic has made us all slaves to virtual working and that has meant even more meetings. If someone says to you that they are in ‘back to back’ meetings, then most of the time they mean ‘I’m really important and much in demand by people who I classify as more important, who also want my time.” It’s a status thing. Of course, you could choose to view this differently. It could mean “We are so shockingly disorganised that everything we are dealing with is at a crisis stage, which means we can only deal with these problems through a series of constant meetings.” Or ‘my team are so useless that I have to attend every meeting in order for decisions to be made, or nothing happens.’ Or perhaps “I would rather attend meetings because it makes me feel important, and look busy, so I can abstain from doing any of the actual work by claiming all the meetings have been ‘getting in the way’”.

Whatever the reason, we simply don’t need to have so many meetings. Right now, there are probably 5-10 ‘meetings’ every week that are pointless and whatever their objective, you could do them over email and achieve the same, or just stop them entirely.

If you have to block out time in your diary to actually do the work, then you really are struggling to prioritise.

Here are 5 steps to meetings-free work.

  1. Announce to the company that henceforth, all tasks or projects that can be completed without a meeting should be. Task everyone with working out how to do it using technology. Give everyone a deadline for when you would like this accomplished.
  2. Call your ‘meetings’ what they are. Presentation. Pitch for New Business. Coaching Conversation. Negotiation. Performance Review. New Business Opportunity. Crisis Choices. Challenge Debate & Decision. Relationship Development. Account Discussion and Ideas. A walk. A refreshment Break. A New Person Introduction. A Reunion. An Elimination. An Assessment. A Contemplation and Discussion. Never use the ‘m’ word again if you can!
  3. If someone seeks to get time with you for a ‘m’ then put a price on it. What are you paid an hour? What are they paid an hour? Are you going to get more value from that discussion than you are both paid? If not, then don’t try. Ask them to set up a discussion and debate when they are sure you will both yield sufficient value from the experience.
  4. Learn to prioritise the work and the correct time to do it in. Rather than the discussion about it. Don’t be afraid to cancel a ‘regular’ meeting if there’s no value in it. Don’t be afraid to walk out of a meeting that is irrelevant to you, or to which you have no contribution to make, if there is more valuable work you could be doing.
  5. Don’t play the ‘room trick’ on your guests. You play the game, of course you do. If you’re serious you bring them into the board room. If you’re relatively interested, you might book a room. Not that interested, but polite, then you manage to get a booth with high backed chairs, but still in public. And if you’re just pretending, then keep them in the café – don’t even let them past reception. You may think to yourself ‘No way, If I’m in the café it’s because there is nowhere else!’ but see it from the visitor’s point of view… everything means something!

If for you meetings are a way to massage your ego, then that means it’s probably time for you to re-examine the reasons for having them – and think how great you’ll feel by making your company far more productive, and what they will think of you?

For more information on the subject, here’s link to our recent podcast 'Dissecting the Obsession with Meetings' https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/bob-and-jeremys-conflab/id1518259637?i=1000500489097