Time Lost Can't Be Regained

Time Lost Can’t Be Regained

I’m reposting this article from 27 August 2014, because I still see high-ranking clients make meetings longer without even knowing it. Why not free up some time for yourself?

Reading time: 3 min.

If you’re a CEO, you probably spend approximately one third of your time in meetings, according to a 2012 study by the London School of Economics and the Harvard Business School. (Of course, you didn’t need a study to tell you that.) And it’s not just CEOs, but anyone in the C suite: meetings take up a significant amount of time in your workday.

How you might (unconsciously) be making meetings longer

I frequently work with clients who occupy different status levels relative to each other. Over and over, I see the people who have higher status using several behaviors towards the lower-status people, behaviors that ultimately affect the higher-status person negatively themselves.

In other words, when you’re in meetings with your reports, or anyone in your reporting team, you might unconsciously be making those meetings longer. You might be stifling the discussion, or preventing your reports from conveying key, strategic information and perspective.

These behaviors are usually unconscious, and even the best of people can exhibit them occasionally.

Here are the behaviors I see:

  • starting to speak while the other person is still speaking
  • correcting the person, as opposed to the information being conveyed
  • dismissing the person and/or the information being conveyed
  • “talking down” to the other person

Why these behaviors arise

Mostly, these behaviors arise unconsciously. In other words, you’re not a bully, ogre, or insensitive lout just because you do these things sometimes – of course not. You have a demanding job and an important role in your organization, and you need to use your time strategically.

The underlying reasons for these behaviors are often:

  • knowing the bigger picture
  • using the privilege of status
  • having superior ability

Why you might not notice

Most of the time, status differences will keep your reports from saying anything to you. But that doesn’t mean your behaviors aren’t having a detrimental effect, in making meetings longer, and in other ways such as decreasing engagement.

What to look for in others

To notice that you’re exhibiting these behaviors, you’ll have to look for behavioral and verbal clues. Your reports might be:

  • furling their brow
  • wrinkling their face
  • sighing or holding in breath
  • repeatedly starting to say the same thing
  • cutting themselves off short when you begin speaking
  • a set expression on their face
  • speaking in a tight or stilted voice

All of these seem obvious, don’t they? Yet I see clients ignoring them over and over.

What you can do

If you see your reports exhibiting any of those behaviors, know that you may be unconsciously prolonging the meeting. Here are some things you can do:

  • wait twice as long to speak as you think you need to, or even three times as long
  • correct the information, not your report
  • thank your report for insisting on making a point or completing a thought

Shorten meetings by empowering your reports

Next time you’re in a meeting, watch the behavior of others in the meeting. If you see the behavioral or verbal cues that tell you you’re preventing others from saying what they need to say, then make sure you

  • wait twice as long to speak as you think you need to, or even three times as long
  • correct the information, not your report
  • thank your report for insisting on making a point or completing a thought

Keep meetings short, and use your valuable time well.

Photo credit “Time Lost” (c) 2009 Matt Gibson, https://www.flickr.com/photos/matt_gibson/. CC BY-NC 2.0

 

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