Businesspeople sitting in meeting in office.
I’ve never met a business leader who loved meetings, and I doubt I ever will.
Meetings are tools. They allow teams to talk through strategies, get multiple perspectives, and communicate mission-critical messages. But they don’t bring in revenue, and they certainly aren’t fun to sit through first thing Monday morning. At some level, leaders know that. So why do many of them insist on being part of every conversation their employees have?
When to Lead and When to Leave
Everyone’s time is valuable. But as a leader, your time is at a premium. There is only one of you, and there are certain decisions that only you can make. How can you know whether to spend it in a meeting or on another project?
1. Lead meetings where hiring or firing decisions are made.
Experts disagree on the true cost of a bad hire, but it’s somewhere between five and six figures. Even if the individual you’re considering hiring (or firing) is an office manager, it’s essential that you weigh in. Financially speaking, it’s likely to be the single most important hour of your week. Take care, though, not to dominate meetings about hiring or firing someone. You hired your HR staff and department heads for a reason: They’re experts in what they do. Carefully weigh their input before you make the final decision.
2. Leave meetings held to provide you with a proposal.
Recently, a few of my employees asked me about tweaking our benefits package. Rather than guess at what perks each person wanted, I asked them to talk as a team. Although I sat in the background so I could answer questions, I gave them the floor. You don’t have to flee the office for your workers to have a candid conversation. But if you asked for a proposal, give your team the space to come up with something themselves. They’ll appreciate the trust, and you’ll know their suggestions are genuine.
3. Lead meetings about sales, product, marketing, or recruitment strategy.
It’s not enough for you to send an email explaining your vision for sales, marketing, or your product. For them to execute it the way you would, you have to connect with them on a personal level.
At least once a quarter, sit down with them to talk strategy. Might the sales team see a new audience that you could target? Is your inbound marketing strategy actually delivering leads, or should you shift to an outbound one? Are those new college graduates you’re hiring performing, or would hiring more experienced people be worth the money?
4. Leave meetings that devolve into gossip.
Gossip is a surefire way to turn a happy, productive office into a toxic place to work. Even if you don’t actively contribute to it, your mere presence in the meeting is a sign that you condone it. Career platform Monster suggests giving gossipers a way to save face. If gently bringing the conversation back to business doesn’t work, get up and leave. Doing so sends a clear signal that you are not interested in taking sides.
5. Lead meetings if new employees are present.
When someone is new to a team, they pay close attention to the leader’s cues. Leading that first meeting with a new employee communicates two things: first, that you’re invested in the team; second, that you take meetings seriously. Kick off meetings with new employees with a “cultural moment.” Not only does doing so make the meeting more fun, but it gives that team member an immediate taste of your company’s expectations. Recognize a big win from the past week, or let the new worker in on an inside joke.
6. Leave meetings if an investor, partner, or family member calls unexpectedly.
Some things are more important than KPIs and team updates. If you get a call from a key stakeholder — in your personal or professional life — go ahead and take it. Your team will understand. If you get a lot of calls, use your phone’s “do not disturb” function with the “repeated calls” option activated. If someone calls multiple times within a few minutes, second and subsequent calls will get through.
You may be in charge, but you also need to trust your charges. Lead meetings that only you can lead, and let your employees take the reins for the rest.