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  • AutorenbildFriedhelm Boschert

Life’s too short for long meetings. How to make the best of it

Aktualisiert: 4. Feb. 2019

“The top management's meetings partly accumulate to reach some 7,000 hours per year. Moreover, executives spend at least two days a week in meetings with more than three participants”

These were the findings of the survey „Managing Your Scarcest Resource“undertaken by the international management consulting firm Bain & Company. And: "Meetings and emails are the largest time killers in the job," as printed in headline on the career page of Frankfurter Rundschau. However, this should even be complemented: They are also the source of huge dissatisfaction across staff and managers as well.

And thus have negative impact on management culture. After having interviewed more than 500 managers, a current survey Management Culture in Germanycarried out by Prof. Cicik at the University Niederrhein came to quite depressing conclusions: "Managers demand a lot - but offer little in turn" and "All in all, the objectives intended to be achieved by changing management culture ... have been rather failed so far." Something really goes wrong in our management teams and in management culture. Their deficits are reflected in the current (lack of) meeting culture on a one-for-one basis. This however represents a great opportunity as well! But first things first.

The (lack of) meeting culture

"There are managers leading 100 or more people. But they do not take care, how carelessly they go in a meeting," Wirtschaftswochealready stated three years ago. Just holding the mobile phone to the ear, checking the emails on the smart phone or still thinking of the previous meeting - when behaving like this, how do you want to play an active role? Create awareness? Generate involvement? Have you ever reflected on how you come across to your employees?

But normally, carelessness just starts earlier. When sending the invitations. Many meetings take place by force of pure habit: because nobody puts them into question. This point was also confirmed by the Bain surveyagain. When I ask the participants in my workshops to check on this in their own schedules, they are often deeply dismayed at what has been accumulated by "habit". This is management culture, too - even if this isn't recommendable at all.

False tolerance has consequences

But let's talk about the meetings themselves. What is it then that is actually tolerated? "In one of the organisations surveyed, 20 percent of the conference participants sent an average of three or more emails during the meeting." (Bain survey)This is a familiar scenario, isn't it? But when did you last comment on this? Or have you already resigned? Besides the fact that this is pretty expensive (according to the Bain surveymentioned above, "in case of 10,000 employees, some 60 million US dollar are lost in this way; this means 20 percent of the total costs for all meetings"), have you ever thought of what you might trigger in terms of management culture? What y o u as boss or chairman might cause by "tolerating" this? In this case, mindful self-reflection would be urgently recommended.

Even with respect to the mindset and attitude of many participants. This is something that I already know from my lectures. The overall body posture - lax, reclined sitting position, legs stretched - demonstrates, carefully worded, relaxed lack of interest. If the motto of your management culture is "easygoing through the day", you may continue to tolerate such behaviour and to give clear signs in this direction by keeping quiet.

The meeting as stage

Do not delude yourself: The employees observe and interpret your behaviour and your performance permanently. They primarily notice, where y o u focus on. And where is a better opportunity than in meetings? A perfect theatre with stage, actors and audience. In the course of many meetings, I asked myself, if this self-promoter on the stage called "boss" or "chairman" still realized his audience. In its sagging mood, its gaze being far-away and its secretly stifling a yawn. But no, he wants to give his "message", he monotonously drones the agenda - and does not even close the meeting properly. All participants are dull, when leaving; they don't know, what that was about and what is expected of them. This is j u s t how you design management culture! Unintentionally. Day by day. The only question is, if you intend to produce the result or not. If you really want to change your management culture positively, you should continue to read more.

Actively taking advantage of meetings for designing your management culture

"Top managers spend up to two thirds of their working time in meetings, middle management some 50 percent,”, Handelsblattdemonstrates in a survey of the consulting firm Strategie-Forum. And everybody is groaning! Well, it's high time to see this in a positive light! Look at the meetings from a new angle. Forget the objective, content-related aspect for a moment. Consider the meeting to be a micro-cosmos of your organisation, a reflection of "emotional reality and culture" (Goleman) of your company. Do you want that your business will run in the future like your meetings? All participants involve their brain, their heart and their mind. They are careful. Curious. Productive. Creative. Quick and efficient. Wow!

What can we do? Correct! MINDFUL SOLUTIONS - there are always the mindful solution approaches as well. This also applies to meeting and management culture. Well, first of all, I assume that you practice the 5 Ps as objective minimum requirement of a proper meeting (if they don't come to your mind at the moment J… : "purpose, people, plan, participation, progress").

A new meeting culture due to mindfulness

For the chairman, this already begins before the start. At least a five minutes' gap to the previous meeting. Sit attentively at y o u r desk. In an upright position. Observe your breath (1 minute). Ask yourself friendly and curiously, what happens i n you, in your body, with your feelings, in your thoughts (2 minutes). Only observe, don't change anything. And then, think - of nothing for another two minutes. Finally, go to the meeting in a decided and relaxed mood.

The mindful meeting starts - before welcoming the participants! - with a minute of "focused silence". This provides the opportunity to all participants to be present with their body, their heart and their mind. And this, above all, stops chattering. It will take a bit of courage to introduce this procedure. But you'll see that this minute can work true wonders with respect to the participants' attentiveness. Try it! Or participate previously in our corporate workshopssuch as "The mindful Meeting – efficient, short and culture-changing".

As a next step, approach the participants - what is nowadays called "team check-in". Since you want a 100/100 meeting, don't you? 100% of the participants are present at 100%. Besides presentation, one of the most difficult tasks is now up to you: the "mindful self-observation". You have to actively manage the switch between "listening intently", "perceiving the atmosphere in the room" and "feeling the own mood". This means, you always have to move up to the meta level, of yourself and with respect to the meeting. Probably, this sounds difficult, but it can easily put into practice after regular mindfulness training. Exercise narrow focusing and wide focusing.

Take care of body posture and your participants' distraction. Encourage constructive approaches. Demand mindful listening and speaking (not as difficult as it sounds). Show appreciation - the best way would be mindful listening without judging immediately. See also 6 Principles of Mindfulness, in particular the point "Not judging".

A further principle of mindfulness is "Preserving a Beginner's View". Always watch the meeting from this perspective. In this way, you put routines into question and discover some habits and inefficiencies. If this is difficult for you, simply ask recently recruited staff about their approach. These employees still have a clear view and offer you open insights - at least during the first weeks.

Meeting culture designs management culture and vice versa

Well: Use meeting actively in order to change or impart management culture. Save time and effort of tinkering with concepts that normally nobody will read. Concentrate instead on the situations of working together day by day. A good portion of this time just happens in meetings. Be mindful and express your approach in a mindful and clear way.

In our corporate workshops, such as "The mindful Meeting - efficient, short and culture-changing" your learn how to design and change your management culture decisively by means of meetings. And moreover, it is true: "Life is too short for long Meetings" (Klaus Klages, publisher often quoted at Kalapa Leadership Academy).

With kindest regards,

Friedhelm Boschert

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