Just because an individual receives an invitation to a meeting does not mean they must attend. The lines seem to have blurred between the ‘required’ line in a meeting invite and the ‘cc’ or ‘fyi’ line – often times more so for attendees themselves than for the meeting organizers.
Three questions to ponder here:
1. Why is this?
2. How do we fix this?
3. What if we don’t fix it?
There are some individuals that believe their attendance at meetings equals their importance in the organization. Their “visual” presence, whether via in person, on the virtual presentation screen, as a caller in the conference line, etc. reminds people that they exist. They exist and are a part of the organization.
Take a step back and consider how many of the individuals in your last meeting actually spoke.
Not to say that speaking equals importance, rather think about those who really contributed to the core issue being discussed. Those individuals who really knew what they were talking about and had the knowledge needed to solve the problem.
Now, think about which of the individuals in that meeting needed to hear the problem-solving as it was happening – play by play. These may be individuals that fit into the first category, or maybe these are employees in training and learning the process, or those that are facilitating or taking notes for those in the first category (the latter being the administrative roles of meetings).
Did the individuals above need to hear the process of solving the issue at hand, or did they instead really only need to know the final decision? Often times, managers, unless there are issues or conflicts during the problem solving process, will be presented with recommendations or decisions made by the team as a result of the meeting — after the meeting has taken place.
Lastly, there are often lingerers, or individuals that have asked to be invited, barged in, or were not sure if they should decline or not (maybe those people that feel that, if they are invited, they need to go to the meeting). Basically, you don’t know why they are there, and often, they don’t really know either.
Now, take a look at the attendees at a meeting you recently attended where you or others thought maybe it was a bit too jam packed. Go through the attendee list and break out those individuals into the 4 categories above. How many people are eliminated because they fell into one of the last 2 buckets?
If you walked through the above exercise and are in a land of meeting overload, you are probably thinking holy schnikeys!
So, how do we fix this? Here are a few hard and fast tips to help provide clarity in these situations:
- Think about this — the meeting organizer is the gatekeeper. That person typically determines who is or can be included in the invitation for a particular meeting. That person needs to strongly consider the four types of meeting attendees, and ensure that only problem-solving personnel and amazing administratives are included on the invite list. The meeting organizer may not always be popular as a result of this, but imagine ALL the time and energy it will save those who do not really need to be there in the first place!
- Do not use ‘cc’ or ‘fyi’ on meetings, as those individuals falling into these categories may feel a need to come anyway (lonely lingerers), or not understand what their role is in the process. Instead, if there are other people that you do not need in the meeting, but want to ensure are informed of meeting results (primarily the results-driven radicals), tell them you will include them in on the meeting notes.
- If you want to ensure results-driven radicals know a meeting will happen, send them a brief note to let them know beforehand, while also including that “no need to attend the meeting, as meeting notes will be sent afterwards.” If escalations or approvals are needed as a result of discussion within the meeting, that should be assigned to the appropriate individual within the meeting to take away.
- Are you a results-driven radical or a lonely lingerer that has been invited to a meeting you know you don’t really need to attend? It’s your responsibility to ensure the meeting organizer is aware of your role and your need, if one exists (e.g., if you need meeting notes, in order to see recommendations, impacts, and/or decisioning made). If you are in one of these categories and NOT pushing back, you are only failing your team and wasting your own precious time.
Here is the issue with not fixing this growing problem. First, the problem will continue to swell and the number of meetings needed to attempt to fix a problem will multiply immensely. Second, consider the pure number of man hours being WASTED by not fixing this growing issue. We already waste on average 1 hour of time per day, but that number is significantly understated if we consider the number of meetings people attend on a DAILY basis that do not directly impact them, or that they cannot get the results of afterwards.
It is up to meeting organizers take action when results-driven radicals and lonely lingerers attempt to creep into the invite list. It is also the meeting attendee’s responsibility to ensure they are only attending meetings where they fall into the problem-solving personnel or amazing administratives roles for a specific meeting. If not, get the hell off the meeting invite and use that time wisely!