Meetings Are Expensive

Those of us work in organizations spend a lot of our time in meetings. They compete for time on our calendar.

Sometimes the time is well spent. We leave the meeting energized with a clear sense of direction or new understanding. We appreciate our teammates and feel a part of a dynamic organizational culture.

More often that not, the investment of our time and energy in a meeting is frittered away. The meeting is unproductive and we leave with our energy drained and our relationships frayed.

The investment of time and energy also has a financial cost. Think about a recent meeting – especially one that frequently happens in your organization. Perhaps it is your weekly staff meeting. How many people were at the meeting? How long did the meeting last?  Now, multiple those two numbers together to get the total number of people hours. If ten people were in the meeting for a total of two hours, the total is 20 people hours.

Now, let’s figure out how much an hour of time costs in your organization. What’s the average salary (you don’t need an exact number, an approximation will do and add about 25% for benefits)? Let’s assume its $75,000 including benefits (we won’t even include the costs of office space and equipment). Now, let’s divide that by the number of work hours in a year (typically 1840 hours after deducting time for vacation and holidays). So that means the rough costs of an hour of time in your organization is $40.76.

A total investment of 20 people hours at $40.76 per hour equals a cost of $815.20. Did that recent meeting achieve a value of $815.20?

If the answer is yes, your meetings are probably pretty good. They have a clear purpose and the process is designed to achieve the desired outcomes. Everyone is engaged and had sufficient opportunity to contribute their perspective and strengths.

If the outcomes of the meeting were not worth the investment of staff time, your meetings could be better. A meeting has a high probability of being worth the time, if:

  • There’s a clear and significant purpose, or desired outcomes, for gathering a specific group of people. 
  • Each of the participants knows why they are at the meeting and has something to contribute
  • Someone has put some time and energy into thinking about possible ways to move the group through the conversation to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Enough time has been allocated for the work that needs to be done.
  • Someone has taken on the role of orchestrating the conversation and is willing to manage the flow and balance of participation.
  • We believe that meetings are important – they are the place where ideas are generated, strategies are designed, plans are put into action. They are the place where big bold decisions are made. Meetings are the drivers of organizational culture and a foundation of effective teamwork.

If your meetings could be better, join us at our Better Meetings one-day training on June 16 in near Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. You’ll learn how to articulate desired outcomes and design a process that achieves those outcomes. You’ll also learn how to facilitate the meeting and manage challenging personalities.

We want your meetings to be worth the investment of time, energy, and dollars.

Movement Building Lessons from the Couch

We think a lot about leadership at Third Space Studio: the kind of leadership that’s about mobilizing other people to tackle the tough challenges, the challenges that require our willingness to change our own mindsets and behaviors if we are to find a solution. We’ve noticed that there are lots of opportunities to learn about leadership from the experiences all around us.  

The essay below is Meredith’s reflections from her observations of the Women’s March. When we agree with the content of an experience – and certainly when we disagree – there are opportunities to deepen our own leadership abilities and take the lessons to our own venues.

On January 21, 2017, I sat on my couch as millions of people around the world marched in the streets to proclaim women’s rights are human rights to the new President of the United States. I had intended to march in the streets of Raleigh, the capital of my home state, but was deterred by a strained ligament in my knee. The knee injury a result of an attempted split when I slid on a pencil left on the floor while I worked on my poster to proclaim “our power is love”.

From the perch of the couch, I had a different perspective than my usual one in the midst of street level action. As I watched the live stream of the rally from the mall in Washington, D.C., patterns began to emerge. Here are three worth noting because they carry lessons as we move forward.

Michael Moore was going on and on telling the crowd how to take action. Telling us to call our elected officials, run for office, form a posse. Had he not noticed that women were leading the way on these forms of political action? He clearly had not read my Facebook feed filled with women reporting on their daily calls to the Senate or the House, the reports from Pantsuit Nation of new relationships formed, or the encouragement to run for public office from Rise Together and Lillian’s List.  As the minutes dragged on, Ashley Judd, called to him from the other side of the stage and cut him off. She did not say, “excuse me”, she broke into a fierce and provocative poem about being a nasty woman that she learned from nineteen year old from Tennessee. 

Lesson 1: Do not wait your turn while the privileged tell you what you already know. Claim the microphone and tell your truth. If you have power, give voice to the truth of others.

Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, and daughter of the Governor Ann Richards took the stage in a magenta suit. She reminded me of many Southern women who have held elected office: colorful and tightly coifed. And then she surprised me. After telling us that Planned Parenthood would keep fighting for access to reproductive health care, she turned the mike and, I assume, some of her time over to Kierra Johnson, executive director of United for Reproductive and Gender Equity, an organization of young women who are black and brown. Kierra wore a t-shirt with the word “abortion” emblazoned across it multiple times. She spoke with fire about the same issues I expected to hear from Cecile. In her simple action, Cecile showed us that she is truly committed to access for all women.

Lesson 2: A movement is not a voice of one; it is a voice of many. A movement builds credibility in the halls of power and it makes room for the voices from the marginalized edges. If you have power, make room for others with your actions.

Over and over again, the white women who spoke approached the podium alone. They glanced at their notes for reminders of their tightly constructed language. The women of color more often than not approached the mike without notes yet surrounded by a posse of other women. Their language emanated from their hearts and their bellies not their heads. Grounded by the spirits of those around them, not by the carefully constructed thoughts of their own brains, they moved me on an emotional level.

Lesson 3: Leadership is a spiritual not an intellectual act. Weave circles and call on each other. Proclaim the deep knowing that is in our hearts and our spirits. If you are privileged, learn from the practices of others.

We launched the worldwide movement that we need yesterday. It felt new and different. It requires a different kind of leadership from all us. I learned three lessons of what is needed from the perch of my couch. For those that experienced the Women’s March from the streets, I am sure that there are other important lessons.

What I know for sure is that as we move forward from the momentum of millions marching, we cannot return to our couches or our devices. The Women’s March must be an turning point, not a pinnacle. We can no longer believe that our duly elected officials will take care of us or that they even have the capacity to take care of us. Solutions to the profound challenges of today’s world may not be found, or at least may not be born, in the halls of Congress or even state legislatures. Lasting and real solutions require the hearts, the minds, and the engagement of all of us. Let’s move.