Is the executive leader you support especially busy? Does that leader not have time to attend all the meetings they’re supposed to participate in? I have some insights for you.
Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO.
One of the challenges we all experience is that we’re over-committed. We have too many meetings and too many things to do, and there are only so many hours in the day to get all those tasks completed.
One of the techniques I used just last week was to optimize my supervisor’s time by reviewing our communication model’s effectiveness; i.e., I assessed the meetings we attend. Often, we step into new teams, or we’re on a team, and we assume the status quo is acceptable. There are X number of meetings we have to attend. We don’t look at optimizing our communications. We’re too busy running from meeting to meeting.
It’s a wise idea, every so often—whether that’s monthly or quarterly—to assess the meetings you’re participating in. Ask yourself if you’re making decisions in those meetings, or would an email suffice. Is it possible that sending out an email update would generate similar awareness to attending a meeting? Ask yourself, “Am I required to be at this meeting because I’m making active decisions?”
One technique I developed over the years is to continually reassess my communication effectiveness and the effectiveness of meetings for executives I support.
- Start by making a list of all the meetings that your supervisor (CFO, CIO, CTO) attends in which you’re also in attendance. There may be 20 or 30 meetings per week that both you and your supervisor jointly attend. It’s probably not required that you both attend every one of these meetings.
- Make a list of who’s usually in attendance at these meetings and identify who’s making decisions.
- Then, classify these meetings into two groups: Group A meetings are meetings that the supervisor must attend. Group B meetings are meetings you can take over and provide updates in writing post-meeting. This follow-up could be in the form of a simple, bulleted email or be more formal, such as complete meeting minutes. The goal is to alleviate the burden of that leader by attending some or all of these meetings.
Taking this approach has two main benefits. First, it elevates your role in the environment and offers you some additional visibility as you attend these executive-level discussions. Secondarily, it helps free your supervisor from attending non-value-added meetings.
After making a list of meetings, I discovered there were almost 25 meetings that my supervisor and I both attended. Many discussions were deemed to be necessary and couldn’t be flat-out canceled. Each one of these was a meeting in which decisions were being made. However, after a more detailed analysis, I discovered that we didn’t both need to attend every meeting.
As a result of that analysis, I was able to offload most of those meetings from my supervisor. I then quantified how many meetings occur, whether they’re weekly, daily, bi-weekly, monthly, or whatever, and started to total up those meetings. The result was I had a common denominator of how many total meetings we had that overlapped. Then I took all the meetings and calculated the monthly time that each one consumed. This created an “hours per month” metric that was common and relatively generic. This allowed me to quantify and compare apples to apples in terms of savings and, ultimately, the hours avoided.
Maybe you can’t free up the supervisor’s time for all the meetings you both jointly attend. However, if you could eliminate even half of those meetings and free up 15 or 20 hours a week, that’s almost 50% of the time. Maybe, you’re unable to gain that degree of efficiency, and you’re not avoiding 20 hours a week; perhaps it’s more like 20 hours a month. Even so, that’s a lot of freed-up time for an executive to use to focus on more strategic initiatives. This enables the leader to spend more time planning, thinking, and being more strategic. If your supervisor isn’t in the weeds, they’re going to be thinking ahead and removing roadblocks for your department.
Interested in an example of how these concepts are applied? Here are the before-and-after results of an exercise I conducted recently with a senior leader:
- 28 meetings analyzed
- 12.78 average people in each meeting
- 2-41: the range of meeting attendees
- 24 total meetings monthly
- 42.4 hours in meetings monthly
- 12 total meetings avoided monthly
- 32.4 total hours avoided monthly
- 50.0% of meetings avoided
- 76.4% of hours avoided
- 144 total meetings avoided annually
- 388.8 total hours avoided annually
- $58,320 in cost avoided annually
As you jump into the new week, start by reflecting on the communication styles you’ve enabled, and count the meetings you’re attending each week. Think for a second, and ask yourself, “Am I needed in this meeting? Are there meetings my supervisor and I both attend that I could pick up to make his life or her life a little bit easier?”
Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO. Have a great week!