Focused Meetings For Greater Productivity

Today, we’ll talk about focused meetings for greater productivity. Have you ever sat down in a meeting and wondered what you’re doing there? Do see people actually working on their own individual tasks when it’s not their turn to speak? How about feeling you are an observer in a 1-to-1 meeting?

from stock photos

See how you can make your meetings more productive with the below tips.


Are you the meeting organizer?

1. Invite only those who have responsibility, accountability and those who will be consulted on the subject matter.

Parties who only need to be informed could be advised via email or thru other cascade sessions, in most cases.

2. Send the meeting invite at least a week in advance along with the needed material for advance reading.

This is something that I’m guilty of and I know of several others, too, due to pressed timelines and other reasons. Nevertheless, this is still best practice to allow review, preparedness and proper setting of expectations on the part of the attendees.

3. Articulate the objectives, the agenda AND what’s expected from the attendees.

We attended a meeting which at that time seemed exploratory because we did not know much about the topic. Stepping in the meeting, we realized it was actually to gather data from us. Our expectations were not clearly set thus the meeting was futile. Very important to clearly define these at the onset.

Are you invited as an attendee?

1. If you or the meeting organizer cannot articulate the key expectations from you, politely decline.

Sometimes, organizers may have certain assumptions of you, of your role and of your team. This is the perfect way to straighten the false assumptions.

2. If you or the meeting organizer can articular the key expectations from you however you think it is non-value-adding, politely decline.

The updates meeting happened weekly for all leads in one of my previous Companies. This would have been a good frequency, however some people end up getting lost in the conversations hence, would start working on their own deliverables on their laptops in the meeting. Since they realized that the other leads are non-value-adding in some sessions, they have redesigned the meetings and adjusted the frequencies.

3. If your entire team was invited to a meeting, however only one person will have responsibility or accountability (suppose this is not you), politely decline.

Once I asked why we are all invited to this particular meeting and the response was always preceded by “perhaps” or “maybe.” So, maybe I should not attend? Turns out, only one was required but at some point everyone attended so the organizer though we all wanted to attend every time. But, there’s just no value for all team members to attend every single time. Clarify when uncertain.

Focused Meeting Proper

Are you presiding the meeting?

1. Articulate the objectives of the meeting at the start of the discussions.

It might have already been written in the calendar invite, but as they say, always better to over-communicate. A reminder is almost always helpful. This ensures everyone is on the same page.

2. Always ensure the meeting is focused.

It’s very easy to drag on a specific topic or, tackle secondary or tertiary topics that’s not in the agenda and not material to the objectives. So, always be mindful.

Everytime it deviates, just politely remind them (park it or elaborate next time) and go back to the original agenda.

3. If the meeting is live, consider turning it into a stand-up meeting. Literally! Seriously.

The stand-up meetings that I have presided and attended have been very focused and often short. Try it whenever possible. Bonus! There’s added benefit to health, too!

Are you attending the meeting?

1. First, as much as possible, leave sources of distraction where they can go unnoticed.

Yes, I’m talking about mobile phones, tablets and laptops. The latter especially if you are not presenting and will not use it for reference. Remember that when you get distracted, it’s not only you but the other attendees may also get distracted. It may also negatively affect your reputation.

2. Focus on the meeting. When someone talks, it is an opportunity to listen, not to rehearse your piece. As Stephen Covey puts it…

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

I realized that the meetings where attendees truly listened, paid attention and kept to the agenda have been those that were short, productive and engaging.

3. Actively Participate.

Weigh in on the discussion. There’s clear purpose why they invited you, serve it.

I joined a team of process and system experts (Workday); they were the nice and smart bunch. However in meetings, they rarely participated. They had wonderful ideas in mind, but majority of them did not see the value of sharing these ideas. I did not agree. I challenged them to speak up at least once (initially) in every meeting they joined. They were up for the challenge and long story short, they started participating and voicing out their thoughts and opinions, sharing their insights and more importantly, inputs that are of much value to decision making!

The process and system experts (L-R): Robin Dimapilis, Ran Cruz, Agot Reyes and Aimee Bautista and yours truly (no, I’m not a WD expert). Insert May Cabrera (where were you here May?).


Did you preside or organize the meeting?

It doesn’t end there, right? The assigned scribe sends out the Minutes of The Meeting (also known as MOTM) with meeting highlights, action items and action owners. One important thing to put in the MOTM, which is often missed is the timeline or due date for the actions.

Wait, it’s still not done yet. Make sure all actions are completed.

This is the only time you can truly call it a wrap!

Did you attend the meeting?

Often, you leave the meeting with assignments or TO-DOs. Be mindful in respecting the agreed deadlines. Don’t wait for anyone to follow-up.

Whew! That was a lot! But rightfully so. Most days are packed (or cluttered?) with meetings, and with today’s challenging workload situation, it is always wise to ensure that we have focused meetings for greater productivity!

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