eagleIt’s 9 a.m., you just got into the office and an email comes in, “Meeting today at ’2.” Does this fill you with dread? Excitement? Something in between?

As busy as many of us are today, meetings can be an extreme waste of time. But they also can present tremendous opportunities for staff and managers to communicate better, and for everyone to leave more inspired and dedicated. Like a lot of us, I have sat through all too many boring gatherings, and few inspiring ones. Read the following examples and see if any of them sound like your workplace, and what might be done to improve your meetings.

1. Good meetings are held on time, all of the time. Your boss, we’ll call him “Bruce,” called for the meeting at ’2. But everyone knows he’s more likely to show up at 2:15, or even 2:20 or 2:30. The first time someone says, “Sorry, I got held up,” you’re inclined to figure things just came up, and leave it at that. But Bruce is never on time, which led staff to come up with a pool in which the person who comes closest to the time Bruce shows up wins the kitty. Bruce is sending a message that, “Meeting with you is not a priority or I’d be on time. Therefore your time is not that important.” Designating time for staff should be as important as a presentation for a vital client. Want a surefire way of sapping motivation in a workplace? Show up late for nearly every meeting.

2. Good meetings are focused and don’t last longer than necessary. To save time and increase productivity, effective bosses have a checklist or agenda to follow so the meeting doesn’t drag. Everyone needs a road map. Similarly, good meetings not only start on time, they also end on time. Does the meeting last an hour because, well, it’s always lasted an hour? If you have everything wrapped up in half an hour, then break up the meeting! Busy people appreciate getting back to their tasks.

3. Good meetings are documented and are followed up on in a timely manner. When staff members bring up an idea or ask for support on issues and there is no follow through, trust is eroded and team dynamics are negatively affected. Many business leaders don’t do this intentionally, but they fail to communicate, confirm, and clarify what was exchanged. No one should leave a meeting wondering what they are supposed to do next. In terms of follow up, effective bosses, “Do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they are going to do it.” When they don’t, and when this occurs repeatedly, you don’t believe what your boss tells you regardless of what he “says” he’s going to do. He talks a good game, but that’s all it is, talk.

4. Good meetings need not be held often, but they need to occur! For an organization where leadweekly meetings are the norm, a workplace without meetings probably sounds impossible. Trust me, it isn’t! I’m not exactly sure why, maybe because it’s just too easy to start one’s day with the usual chit-chat, and dive in on one’s given tasks, and the next thing you know it’s lunch, and then time to leave for the day… a schedule that perpetuates itself week after week, month after month. Sure there may be a few things said like, “Don’t forget that John Doe’s order is due Friday,” or, “Bruce, remember there’s no mail on Monday because it’s Memorial Day,” but it’s nothing important in terms of the big picture. In an office with many conflicting schedules, “Bruce” might think it’s just too difficult to arrange a meeting. I don’t agree. In a day and age with Skype, and other phone and video platforms available on even mobile devices, I see that as a cop-out. Workplaces where people don’t meet tend to be environments where only the bare minimum gets done because no one is inspired to want to do more. There shouldn’t be any reason why ANY workplace doesn’t meet at least once a month. Quick story: I once worked at a daily newspaper that didn’t hold meetings, and one Friday, after the paper was “put to bed,” with no discussion, warning or written notice I was told to clear out my desk over the weekend. “Good riddance,” I thought since I was busy sending out resumes anyway, and had long since “checked out” on the job mentally.

5. Good meetings have personal connections, not just facts and figures. Even regularly held meetings can backfire if they are only about processes, procedures, and sales quotas. This is understandable – but only to a certain degree. Meetings are attended by people who are driven by personal goals, values, and passions. They have a right to be asked how they are doing, and they have a right for their feelings to be heard. According to business author Joe Takash, once every three or four meetings, staff should be asked questions like, “What are you motivated by?” or “What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your job?” Managers gain insights into ways of maximizing an individual’s performance and, feeling “cared about,” the employee is likely to feel more loyal, motivated, and productive.

6. Good meetings lead to great outcomes. Good managers are on time, they value other people’s time, they follow up on what they say they’re going to do, and they listen to, respect, and implement staff members’ suggestions. The outcomes include greater communication, confidence, loyalty, and inspired performance, which in turn usually leads to a good bottom-line.

7. Finally, good bosses make you feel like a soaring eagle who is encouraged to spread your wings. You’re proud of where you work, and you’d swoop and soar for 100 miles for your boss because he values your contributions to the workplace, and tells you so. Conversely, the alternative involves watching the clock and doing only what it takes to keep your job and no more. You feel like a “lead balloon,” sinking further each day, biding your time until you land another position.

Meetings present great opportunities for success – or reasons for people to quit and take a job elsewhere. I hope you have felt like an eagle in your work experiences and not a weighted balloon.