How late are you for meetings?

You know how our blog page is subtitled ‘Practical tips. Prompts to get you thinking. And the odd rant’ – no?  Hey ho, you do now. Well, this here post might be a bit of all three…

Let’s start with the rant: late-comers at meetings – inspired by a recent blog post on the British Psychological Society’s research digest. And not just meetings of course: in Zoomly’s case, late arrivals at training workshops. Grrrrrr. Part of me doesn’t mind a bit: we still get paid. Another part of me minds intensely: other colleagues were able to show up on time dammit, and it’s not fair on – even rude to – them. That applies to meetings too. And often the last late-comer is the one with the lamest excuse.

In some organisations lateness at meetings seems to be systemic, and often because that’s what’s modelled right at the top. Which not surprisingly prompts a response (often unconscious) of, ‘if the biggest gorillas in the jungle are behaving like this, well then I will too’. 

And how is it that, although someone thinks it’s OK to show up late, they seem to have to leave on the dot of the scheduled end time?  So does that mean they’re punctual for their next meeting?  Or do they amble there via a few friendly colleagues, the kitchen, the bathroom, and a 10-minute check-in with their smartphone? No, I’m quite calm, really, just curious…

So – some prompts to get you thinking, at the very next meeting you attend. Do this for just a few days and you’ll get some handy insights.

  1. Notice who shows up on time and what they do whilst they’re waiting.
  2. Notice who is late and what, if any, reason they give.
  3. Note how long the meeting takes – an hour, longer?
  4. Notice how productive the meeting is: does it accomplish what it should?  Are there clear agreements and action points? Or does there need to be another meeting?
  5. Notice if the meeting ends on time, or overruns. If the latter, what’s the reason for that?
  6. If you can, add up the hourly charge-out rate of all the people around the meeting table. Assuming your meeting is schedule for one hour, now work out what 10% of that total charge-out amount is (10% being charitable for the time lost waiting).

Now notice how you feel. Chilled? Anxious? Fuming?  I’m willing to bet that poor meeting attendance is both a productivity and profit drain for many professional service firms. So maybe something to think about.

You want practical tips as well? OK, good luck with these:

  1. Set a time limit on meetings and ensure everyone knows what it is at the start.
  2. Establish and/or elicit the meeting’s objectives – what MUST be achieved by the end time?  If there are multiple objectives, get the group to rank them – a show of hands vote for most important, 2nd most important, etc, item is fine.
  3. Allocate time to each of your ranked agenda points.
  4. Appoint a time-keeper – you may see this person in the mirror – whose roles are to say when there’s only 5 minutes left on this point, point out that ‘we’ve gone round in circles for 10 minutes’, and say when time’s up.
  5. Experiment with shorter meetings with fewer items.

Check out the BPS research on lateness at meetings here (I think it’s rather flawed as respondents were self-reporting, so the true lateness figure is probably much, much higher) 

Some more handy tips here from Harvard Business Review  

And a neat idea: pulse meetings to keep projects on track

Comments are closed.