Running a business WITHOUT meetings - is it possible?
Meetings are another one of those things that I have a love/hate relationship with - I love getting together with like-minded people to brainstorm on an issue that has been on my mind for a long time - but there are also lots of downsides to meetings that can affect your entire team negatively, so to me they are something to be used sparingly - if at all.
But, what is the problem with holding a meeting whenever you want to know something, feel confused, or just because it is Tuesday at 2pm?
We all know THAT kind of company.
The one where you have a weekly ‘all-hands’ meeting, a marketing meeting, a sales meeting, an operations meetings - and then to top it all off a daily huddle of sorts.
And don’t forget about the co-worker that keeps calling you/asking you to get on zoom to talk through something that could have been a slack message, just because they feel better talking to someone.
And all of a sudden you look at your calendar and you realise that you’re losing 2 hours a day to meetings alone, never mind counting the unproductive time before, after or in between meetings - and when you’re honest with yourself - how many of those meetings were even relevant and needed to be a meeting? Hint: it’s probably very few to none.
There is no way that this is productive for any team member involved - or for the business owner. It fills your calendar, it makes you FEEL busy, but there are no results to show for it at the end.
And I want to bring up something else here.
Let’s factor in now that a decent percentage of freelancers and entrepreneurs are neurodiverse - many having ADD/ADHD.
The added pressure from meetings is often enough to ruin our entire day because we’re either in a meeting or waiting for the next meeting, terrified to miss it if we enter hyperfocus mode by accident. [If you’re interested in time blindness I recorded a whole podcast episode on this and you can find it over here.]
Or maybe let’s consider that most of us started our business or our freelance career wanting to be in charge of our own time and being free as to WHEN and WHERE we are working - which is impossible if you need to be in a quiet space 3-4 times a day at a fixed time every day or week. Or whenever you suddenly get called to “jump into a meeting”.
So, how can we use meetings as the tool they were intended to be, instead of it being “just a thing you do”
There are a few very simple things I’ve personally implemented that make meetings an actual tool and makes sure that they don’t take over my own life - or my team’s life.
- Make sure you only have a meeting when it NEEDS TO HAPPEN
For example, there is a problem. It needs brainstorming, we need to bounce ideas off of each other and slack wouldn’t work in this instance, because it needs a “buzz”.
Then, hold a meeting.
- Keep the time to the MINIMUM needed and the topic to ONE thing.
When you schedule the meeting, allocate as little time as possible to the meeting on everyone’s calendar and be done within that timeframe. Eg. Book a meeting to brainstorm a specific problem for 15 minutes, everyone comes prepared, someone takes notes, action points get distributed and
Eg. 20 mins to brainstorm x challenge the business is experiencing. Everyone coming to the meeting comes prepared with ideas and thoughts, someone takes notes, action points get defined and distributed and it ends as fast as it started
The law that things will take as long as you allocate to them kicks in.
- Only invite the people who REALLY need to be there
Large meetings are almost always unproductive and just a distraction in people’s work day. When you’re holding a meeting ONLY invite the people who really need to be there and are involved in the decision-making. If you’ve invited someone and the only 2 words they said on the whole meeting were “hi” and “bye” it was a waste of time for them to be there.
So, what do you do to be “informed” about what everyone is doing?
The point of meetings is NOT so that you as the business owner gets updates from people about what they’re working on. For that there are tools and systems you can build - and that’s what you should focus the newly found time that you used to spend in meetings on instead.
Build your own business hub so that you are clear on:
- Your goals for the year, quarter and month
- The milestones on your way there
- The projects that you need to prioritise to get there
- The tasks that each team member is working on to help you get there.
- A space to keep all of your company’s documentation
- KPIs and how your team is doing
and so much more...
If you want an update on how your company is really doing, then a meeting is NOT what you need. You need data, you need documentation and you need a place where you can go to get ALL of it - without needing to ask another person for a check in or a status update.
And then you can use meetings as the tool they’re intended to be to bring the right people around the same virtual table to brainstorm something important - and move your company forward.