405 Days This Year

Here’s how to earn back the 40 days every worker loses on average through fruitless meetings.

By John Ogier

After all the weekends, public holidays, your own vacations and a few ‘not-feeling very-well’ days are taken out of your year, you’ll have a little over 200 days left to do your real work— and I’ve not counted travel time in any big way yet. If you’re in management of some description, expect about 80 of those days to get sucked up with meetings (that’s a conservative figure). Executives report about half of these meetings are a waste of time or half the time is wasted. That’s at least 40 days gone up in smoke.
One tried-and-tested way to overcome inefficiencies in the workplace is to improve ‘teamwork.’ No surprises there. However, taking this one step further, it is now ‘collaboration’ that has piqued leaders’ interests. This extends the teamwork element to include other company departments and external parties, who can add value to business planning and processes. However, a bit like the wellintentioned mantra of ‘innovation,’ the success of real collaboration depends on a workable, pragmatic definition combined with a high commitment level of the leaders to talk it and walk it every day.
This may cause some tensions in organisations where new-generation managers are pushing the leadership to be more open and collaborative, but the leaders are unsure of how to make it work. In cases where leaders have never experienced what it’s like to effectively collaborate during their early management years, they are left to make it up when they reach leadership status [see image below]. Rarely is it enough to simply invite a dotted-line group of colleagues into your team meeting to fire off some slides at each other. That’s where you lose your 40 days.
The full impact arises when leaders take on the mantel to bring collaborative ways of working into the core business values. The most effective collaboration happens not in a one-session-wonder but in the longer term by blending conversations either in or between meetings whether they are in person or virtual. Add to the recipe some organised informal social events to build rapport and trust between teams and individuals and collaborative behaviour starts to happen. Co-creating collaboration rules that people can understand and respect encourages a far more effective use of time when executives come together. Meeting times will begin to fill with planned conversations, appropriate thought-provoking challenges and well-managed idea sharing. Leadership endorsement of a collaborative way of working enables people to get down to business without the fear of repercussion or strict adherence to organisational boundaries. When communicated, implemented and practised well, collaboration can inspire new and advantageous ways to work.
For leaders willing to make the commitment to move away from the current time-suck of painful meetings and work in a truly collaborative fashion, the potential gain is not only more time, but also a huge range of other benefits that come when people work effectively together.
405 days this year? Here’s how to make a start:

7 Steps to a Culture of Collaboration

  • Relegate the top-down ‘Tell and Sell’ approach.
  • Open up problem solving and strategy planning to a wider audience.
  • Use a variety of meeting environments and techniques to stimulate discussion.
  • Capture and share outputs in creative ways.
  • Create deliberate social events to build rapport and trust.
  • Adopt ‘Test, Consult and Co-Create’.
  • Have the courage to be sharp on your meeting culture practices.