Michael Munger, On Being Late to Meetings

Michael Munger talks about meetings and being late. I have spent whole days wasted in meetings and nothing drives me more nuts than wasting time.

So here are my rules for meetings with other people (not my boss)

1. Never call a meeting if a phone call or an email will suffice.

2. If I call a meeting, I show up 3-5 mintues early, I start precisely on time and I end either early or on time. I never start late and I never run over. If I need more time, I schedule another meeting.

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3. I ALWAYS have an agenda and I ALWAYS announce the agenda at the start of the meeting. Absent an emergency, i.e. the building is on fire, I don’t deviate from the agenda.

4. If you tell me a meeting is going to be 30 minutes, I start my watch at the time the meeting was supposed to start, when 30 minutes expires, I get up, say that the 30 minutes us up and leave. I don’t stay a minute longer.

5. If you don’t have an agenda for the meeting, you can bet I am going to leave early or at worst on time.

6. If I make an appointment for 10:00am and I am not there at 9:55am, you can expect a call from me saying I am running late. I expect and demand the same courtesy.

7. I never, ever ask for people to be in a meeting unless they are essential to the meeting.

Now, some of these rules are harsh on purpose. I don’t like to have my time wasted. If I can force a few people who deal with me to manage their time better, it makes my life easier.

Now rules for meetings with my boss are not all that different, except that I rarely leave early without them knowing about it in advance.

However, as a staffer, I tend to be a nightmare on bosses when it comes to meetings. Too many times have I been embarrased by my boss when it comes to meetings. I drive my bosses nuts when it comes to leaving on time, starting on time or managing the meeting. The most difficult bosses are the entrepeneurs who haven’t learned time management. After every bad meeting, I will tell my boss, in private, that the meeting was bad. There were too many people in the room, there was no decisions made, the time was poorly managed, etc.

Almost invariably, my colleagues begin to appreciate my efforts to curb wasted time with my boss.

Finally, some suggestions out there for bosses with a staff.

1. Staff meetings are almost invariably a waste of time. You don’t need staff meetings all the time. In fact, most of the time you don’t need a staff meeting. If you need information shared among your staff, have everyone submit a daily or regular report via email. Reserve staff meetings for when you really need them, you will be surpised how much more productive your staff is without the meeting.

2. If you are the decision maker, never contemplate a decision from a subordiante unless they have given you options. Whether you take one of their options or you come up with a response on your own, never make a decision without options. This forces your staff to actually think about what they need from you. Also, ask for a recommendation. Sometimes their idea is good and teh right decision, but they need to have “sign-off.”

3. Have an agenda and think about the purpose of the planned meeting. Even if you jot your agenda down on a note pad before walking in, having a plan indicates to your staff that they need a plan too.

4. Start on time and end on time. This means you have to be on time and expect your staff to do the same. When you enforce time management, they will too.

5. Remember the more meetings you have the more time is wasted “planning and preparing” for the meeting.

Meetings waste an enormous amount of time. As Munger put it: “Work is what we do between meetings.”

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