Your typical subordinate might have a weekly meeting with you, a department meeting, and a company meeting. They attend one birthday party per month, which should be combined with either the company or department meeting. That’s three one-hour meetings per week. They may have one or two other monthly or quarterly meetings. That’s not so bad. They may accumulate other meetings, but people should be encouraged to establish such meetings for a limited time. ("We’ll have this project meeting weekly until the major release.")
    If people need to meet semi-regularly, they should schedule a weekly time for the meeting, and cancel the meeting if there is no need that week. An easy way to do this is to schedule the time, and presume the meeting is canceled unless the organizer of the meeting issues an agenda the day before.
    Late-starting meetings are insidious. If meetings usually start late, then people have an incentive to come late, so they waste less time. This often descends into competition to deliberately arrive last, as a way to demonstrate your importance. ("You must wait, so my precious time is not wasted.") The result is a drastic productivity hit. A meeting of six people starting 10 minutes late costs the company an hour in lost productivity. What is the opportunity cost of that hour?
    To control the cost of meetings, you need to put a stop to these games. Start meetings on time. Tell your people that you start meetings on time, and in fact all meetings in your department start on time. If a meeting is more than three minutes late, and people are missing, start anyway. If key people are not present, cancel the meeting and leave.
    The above works for meetings composed of people within your reporting tree, in most corporate cultures. Also, it works if you explain why it’s important to start meetings on time.
    Very occasionally, you will be late for a meeting. Apologize sincerely. One day, you will arrive late for a meeting to find that the meeting was canceled and everybody left. This is a great day.
    You will spend more time in meetings than the typical employee. You may spend most of your time in meetings, or else in on-going email discussions, which are meetings, except slowed-down by the low bandwidth of email compared to face:face communication. At least some of the meetings will be with your peers and superiors, so you don’t have so much control over how these are run. But, over time, you can make suggestions for improvement. Throwing a fit in front of your boss over the late start of a meeting usually does not have the desired effect.
    In meetings, pay attention to the speaker. Look at them, and listen to their words. Take notes, if you want. Don’t daydream, check email, make side conversations, or read. Don’t take phone calls, at least not very often. People take their cues from you. If you act like the meeting is unimportant, everyone will think so, and the meeting will be a waste of time.
    At the end of the meeting, it’s sometimes useful to ask yourself, "what could I have done to improve the meeting?" This is especially useful for a kind of meeting you don’t have lots of experience with. You should do this periodically for 1:1s. Often, in retrospect, a meeting would have been improved if you had not said something. Since you are a senior person, your words carry weight. Even if there is no real damage from something you said, it can still easily derail a meeting.

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