How to Lift the Dark Cloud of Bad Meetings and Find the Silver Lining

According to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, every meeting should start in silence to give everyone a chance to read documents thoroughly and facilitate a more focused discussion. Whereas Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, insists if a meeting isn’t immediately productive, the solution is to simply leave. This not only begs the question how long a meeting between the two would last, but also highlights how individual approaches to work can be completely different. Here, Max Steinberg, CBE, Chair of the upcoming 2018 International Business Festival, discusses the options.

However, something both strategies share is the drive to use working hours more effectively by finding ways to operate in a more streamlined way. The idea of traditional meetings is increasingly challenged by the changing nature of workplaces. In our busy work lives where time is precious and businesses have to make the most out of every minute, the very purpose of a meeting itself needs a reassessment, as the comments from leaders like Bezos and Musk suggest.

Bad meetings highlight how valuable our time is becoming, and reminds us to work smarter, not just harder. So how can the cycle of poor productivity be broken to gain some precious time back in your day?

Balance: While SMEs are often described as the engine room of the UK economy, poor work-life balance could see these vital enterprises running on empty. Recent research conducted on our behalf demonstrates the toll on the lives of entrepreneurs – more than half (54%) reported staying at work past 10pm, and a similar proportion (51%) admit to sending work emails after midnight. Worryingly, 41% report that they don’t have enough time to sleep properly and 31% have no time for exercise, both of which can seriously affect productivity, focus and wellbeing. It’s crucial to encourage a good work-life balance at a company. If your employees are burned out, this has a damaging knock-on effect which can cause all kinds of issues -from a lack of focus to frayed team relationships.

Flexibility: The world of work is changing. From remote working to more relaxed management structures, valuing flexibility is increasingly necessary to keep up with the future work force that’s rapidly evolving. Even the steadfast suit and tie are on the wane, with our research showing just half (50%) of entrepreneurs have donned business wear to work in the past month. If that’s any indication to go by, changing attire reflects changing attitudes. In order to attract and retain young talent, who can bring fresh ideas and perspective on board, it’s imperative to create a workplace environment and culture that embraces the flexibility young people expect.

Communication: Whether you decide to follow Bezos’ advice and start your gatherings in silence or take Musk’s approach and walk out of unproductive meetings, there’s one approach all leaders should have in common – open communication. Nearly every situation can be resolved by clear and straightforward conversation. When things seem difficult or confusing, it’s up to business leaders to provide clarity and perspective.

Ultimately your team are your most valuable asset, and having a happier work environment is the best way to get the most out of your team. They need to feel like they are listened to and their opinions are valid.

With the right combination of these key components, any business can work smarter, cultivating better and more productive practices. Once you make bad meetings a thing of the past, you can renew your focus on what really matters – fulfilling your business’s potential.

Max Steinberg CBE is Chair of the 2018 International Business Festival, the world’s largest business festival which aims to help SMEs network, scale up and reach their potential. The Festival takes place in Liverpool between 12-28 June. To find out more and buy tickets visit @TheBusinessFest

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