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The Crime Of Meeting Overtime (3 Ways To Optimize Your Meetings)

We all have meetings, sometimes many in a day lined up back-to-back, and we ask ourselves “When am I going to get my actual work done?!”  What often makes this more frustrating is when the day you have planned is derailed because meetings run into overtime.

First, our attention changes to “when am I going to get outta here?” or “what am I missing in the other meeting?

Then as overtime extends we can’t help but think “does he/she think their time is more valuable than mine?” and a variety of other thoughts.

There are many problems and potential issues that can be created by running meetings that consistently do not start on time or end on time. Let’s face it, we all know culprits that do this all of the time.  But those that only commit this crime occasionally are no less guilty.

At the risk of being overly dramatic, I am going to tell you that going into overtime can have an impact to the trust and credibility that your teams feel towards you.  I am not going to say the occasional meeting that runs late is going to ruin your career; I am simply saying that when people ask me how they can build trust and show great leadership skills in order to “lead without authority,” I tell them that this is a very important ingredient.

Long Meetings Can Be Like Solicitation Calls

Let’s take a look at why this is the case.  Think for a second about solicitation phone calls to your house.  When you answer, do you ever tell them that you have just a minute or two? What happens next? Do they stop talking after two minutes and ask, “Sir/Ma’am do you have a few more minutes to talk?” or do they blow right through the time you have set and continue talking? Likely it’s the latter.

Now imagine getting a call where the solicitor sets an expectation for the time frame of the phone call and sticks to it.  Would you answer a call from them again? They have built a level of trust with you; they have shown they are a person of their word.  Maybe you do answer their call again.

I know our internal meetings are different then a solicitor calling the house, but the emotions and impact from someone not meeting the expectations set forth are very similar.  So when you run a meeting, consider this: every time you hold a meeting that runs into overtime, you are losing a little bit of trust from your team. This trust is a key ingredient that enables product managers (and other business functions) to lead teams successfully.

Change The Pattern

Sometimes running over time in a meeting is inevitable, however, so here are some tips to help you maintain trust and integrity with your team:

  • If you are nearing the end of the meeting and need more time, check back in with the audience and ask: “I know we are out of time, is everyone ok if we continue for X amount of time?” Be specific with how long you want to extend the meeting for. If a single person cannot stay, you should end the meeting. If you decide to continue the meeting you are signaling to the person that they are not an important part of that team, and this has a negative impact.  Alternatively, when you do end the meeting because a single person cannot continue, consider how important you are making them feel and the positive emotions that may come from that.
  • To help avoid overtime, always have agenda agreed upon prior to the meeting. Deliver the agenda 24hrs before the meeting, and be sure that everyone who is attending the meeting has received it. At the beginning of the meeting, review the agenda; you may ask if others have something to add, but if they do, something must come off the agenda to stay on track. Do not “squeeze” in another topic or overtime is inevitable. Throughout the meeting, stick to the agenda to keep any additional unexpected topics from creeping up, causing chaos, and causing your meeting to derailing and go into overtime.
  • Lastly, if you are the constant culprit, please, for the love of all that is good in the world, SCHEDULE A LONGER MEETING TIME. People are planning their days; you are not the only person or meeting that is important to them. Respect your attendees, respect their other work, respect the host of the next meeting and recognize the importance of gaining trust.

Please let me know your thoughts below and/or contact us.  If there is something else that you would like to hear more about please let me know and I will do my best to address it.

Good luck in your meetings and don’t commit the crime of overtime!

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