A Leader’s “Optional”; Is Every Meeting Mandatory? 3 Keys to Enhancing Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Through “Optional”!

It’s a true honor to speak about leadership and train at so many wonderful organizations around the world; meeting extraordinary Leaders and Front-Line Employees. There are several things most organizations struggle with and one of the most prevalent is the amount of meetings leaders and employees must attend and sit through. You know what I mean… you’ve been asked to attend a meeting in-person, virtually, or travel… you already wonder why you must be there, why someone else on your team couldn’t do it themselves, and how much time it’s taking from the fifty million other things that need your attention. Then the meeting starts, and within five minutes you KNOW you didn’t have to be there, the information isn’t for you, this could have been handled over a five-minute old school phone call, and you can feel yourself begin to crawl out of your skin and want to run away… all the while, having to sit there and maintain a calm demeanor and present like a pillar of professionalism. Did I get that right? So, what to do as a leader asking people to attend or if you’re the employee being asked to attend?

Before we delve into the specifics, the quick answer is… allow leaders and employees an “Optional Feature” for meetings. Yes, I know this can snowball into chaos. It can also allow leaders and employees a moment to breathe, get their “real job” done, enhance their work/life harmony, and be more efficient with their time and client/customer service. As a leader, it starts with the awareness and understanding of why SO many of your staff are in SO many meetings in the first place!

Some leaders are used to having every meeting as a team and can see no other way… just as many leaders could never imagine Hybrid or Remote Work actually working. Some leaders want all departments present so everyone can be on the same page. Some employees seek protection and will cc’ everyone on everything; inviting others to meetings as if they’re everyone’s personal assistant. While others may enjoy the perks of certain meetings… The meeting provides travel, the amenities that come with it: dinners, lunches, nights out, and getting to do it with desired co-workers. I must admit, in my employee days, those types of meetings out of the office or conferences were fun and a breath of fresh and well-needed air. However, they can potentially cause a “Boys-Club Effect”, a “Girls-Club Effect”, or any type of “Clique-Effect” that inadvertently travels back into the workplace that includes some and excludes others, provides privileges to some and not others, or creates an “In-Crowd”/”Out-Crowd” environment. So, what to do?

A Leader’s Value

As we begin, let me preface by saying everyone within the organization can be a leader when they choose to be… and leaders are positive, passionate, productive, know the vision, what it takes to make the vision come true, and are willing to move forward through great times, tough times, and through change! Meetings aren’t to be intentionally dodged, rather carefully and professionally examined… here are few questions to ask yourself and others when invited to a meeting you struggle to see the value in.

  1. Is this meeting for me? When done correctly, all meetings are valuable but may not be for everyone! Does this meeting pertain to anything you’re leading or working on? What does the company or person calling the meeting what me to get out of this meeting? Do I HAVE to be present, or would it be better suited and better experience for someone on my team to attend? Can we record the meeting (especially virtually), watch it, and provide feedback by a designated time?
  2. Can I contribute? Do you have anything to best contribute to the meeting? If there’s no new information, updated information, or relevant information related to the project… can you be excused until further headway has been made? If so, great! If not, refer back to the first series of questions; as there may still be some value in attending for at least a portion of the meeting.
  3. Is the meeting necessary? I firmly believe information is key and that meetings matter… when constructed in the right manner (see my Leader’s Meetings in my newest book, A Leader’s Toolbox) and with an appropriate timeframe. My biggest pet peeve is long-winded meetings with people repeating themselves and turning into a complain fest led by the Negative Nicks and Nacys. However, there are times when a meeting may not be necessary and it’s more beneficial to postpone or wait until the next scheduled meeting. Be Mindful… “Necessary” is a fine line to walk given increased Hybrid and Remote Work. The meeting may no longer be necessary and can be canceled or rescheduled. However, rarely meeting can eventually erode your culture and the organization. There are companies that gather their people regularly to Congregate, Collaborate, and/or Celebrate. When this is the case, be transparent and enjoy!

Delegate & Discuss

As a leader, it’s impossible to be everywhere, to do everything, and address every fire. In speaking with Jamey Rootes, President of The Houston Texans, he summed up leadership like this… “Leaders don’t do the tasks of their old job, they do the people that do the tasks!”. That’s where delegation comes in. When you’re invited to a meeting in-person, virtually, or for travel… Is this meeting for you or can someone on your team attend, learn from it, and be better for it? If so, who is this person, are they available, what do you want them to get out of the meeting, what would they like to get out of the meeting, and want authority are you providing them to make decisions at the meeting? It would be unfair to send someone into a meeting and provide them with zero power or authority!

Whomever you request to attend the meeting, it’s important to follow-up and follow-through… or time has been wasted and your leadership tainted… Be Mindful! What’s your preferred method of contact to be kept in the loop regarding the meeting? I’m honored also to run my own non-profit and lead a Board. My team is the best and many times our Treasurer meets with organizations in the community without me present. Due to my pace of life and travel; as well as his… my preferred method of contact is a text with bullet points regarding the outcome of the meeting; along with pictures taken depending on the scenario. What’s your preferred method for how to be updated? If you don’t know, how are your people supposed to?

“Optional” is a Two-Way Street!

You just read the various ways to lead your employees through A Leader’s “Optional”, but what about the employee’s side. There are millions of employees being asked to attend meetings they don’t need to be a part of and would prefer to spend their time doing more impactful and pressing things. As a leader, it’s important to know that most employees view a boss’s request as a “Have To”. Therefore, when it’s suggested an employee attend a meeting, asked if they are free to attend, or if they can travel for a meeting… most employees feel compelled and obligated to say “Yes!”. Knowing this, CAN your people ask you the same questions I shared in the beginning:

  1. Is this meeting for me? What does the company or person calling the meeting what me to get out of this meeting? Do I HAVE to be present, or would it be better suited and better experience for someone on my team to attend? Can we record the meeting (especially virtually), watch it, and I provide feedback by a designated time?
  2. Can I contribute? Do I have the actual knowledge base to contribute? If yes, great! If not… what’s the plan to mentor, coach, and train; allowing me to best represent the company out in the world?
  3. Is the meeting necessary and best prioritized with the things currently on my list?

Many leaders are ignorant to their people’s list and have no idea what they may have to bump out of their day or the amount of work an employee may have to do outside of work hours just to attend that meeting. As a leader, Be Mindful of your people’s list and help them best prioritize; as to not burn-out or bore-out your Inspired & Motivated Employees! Enjoy A Leader’s “Optional” and your Evolution!!!

“Leaders understand that meetings aren’t to be intentionally dodged, rather carefully and professionally examined for impact… Be Mindful!”

                                                 – Andre Young

Written by: Andre Young

Click www.youevolvingnow.com to connect, chat, and to find out more about Andre Young’s Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Trainings, Speaking Engagements, Books, and more; evolving your organization, your leaders, employees, and teams!

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