The one resource that everyone has an equal amount of is time in a day.
We all get twenty-four hours. No amount of money can buy more hours and nothing can force you to have less. This simple fact of time being a finite resource creates a constant state of assessing if things are “worth the time.” In our whirlwind of work, multiple requirements tug at our attention to get their share of our time. One place the “worth the time” assessment often leaves people frustrated while working is during meetings. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but there are three I think should be readily understood to help people to be respectful of time constraints within a team or company.
First, meeting organizers need to have a specific, definitive purpose for their meeting. Only invite people who directly contribute to that purpose. When meetings become a forum for everyone who may be affected by the output of the meeting, too many people get invited and, by default, many of those people do not feel engaged for much of the meeting. Those attendees know they do not need to be there, and the wasting of their precious time creates a generic disdain for meetings in general. Do not invite people who only need to know the output of the meeting; those people can be updated when the meeting is over. When explained properly, they will appreciate having the time more than they will be offended by not receiving an invitation.
Second, do not rely on meetings as a primary source of collaboration within a team. Teams should be able to effectively communicate and collaborate to move strategic topics forward in meaningful ways beyond traditional meetings. If your team has not figured out how to effectively collaborate outside of meetings, the number of meetings is too large and, again, people will begin to resent meetings because they are the obstacle to work efficiency and therefore a thief of productive use of time.
Third, invitees are reluctant to push back, so they end up attending meetings where they are unsure of the value of their attendance. The assumption that a meeting invitation requires meeting attendance steals away valuable time. Anyone invited to a meeting should be entitled to understand what they are expected to contribute and should be free to not attend a meeting where the value they contribute is unclear. If they do not know why they should be there, they should not be there.
Being diligent with respect to who is invited to meetings, ensuring effective communication does not require meetings, and confirming attendees know the value their attendance brings are all ways to be respectful of others’ time. Showing respect by helping people manage the universally constrained resource of “hours-in-a-day” will make positive, personal impacts and improve the efficiency of your team.