I hardly believe that there are workplaces that don’t meet to discuss the goals, to do’s, and progress of the team or the company. Making “meetings” as a very important communication channel or practice to ensure that all members of the team are on the same page especially about the things that should be done. My point is - you may have attended quite a few meetings as well as have experienced to be in the company of the: MEETING-HIJACKERS. They are the ones consciously or unconsciously hijacking the meeting for a lot of possible reasons. But whatever reasons there may be, if you will let this person to be a successful hijacker, you are letting him/her to waste your precious time that would have been spent to other equally or more important things in your life. What if the same situation happens quite frequently? What if it’s taking a toll on you, and your private/family/study/etc. time? I strongly believe that we should value the time of one another. This is one way of showing that we truly respect the other person/s. So, I came up with 5-point practical ways on how to stifle the meeting-hijackers off the “meeting” plane (pun intended) for the benefit of many of you, very easy to remember: ALIGN.

Point #1 - AGENDA of the meeting is non-negotiable!!!

There are so many blogs about how to have a fun, productive, and effective meeting and it is safe to say that all of us agree that a list of targeted agenda is a must. Ideally when you send a meeting invite (usually via electronic calendar) this should already be included. A targeted agenda should also be SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

If you are the scheduler: be cognisant of your target attendees’ availability and the need for enough time to prepare. It is advised that these people are aware of what is expected of them during the meeting e.g presentation material, data, samples. Let them know as well the target flow of the meeting e.g. discussion, decision or discussion-decision.

As attendees: be proactive and responsible enough to initiate and know how you can contribute in making the meeting of value, productive and effective as possible. It takes two to tango they say.

Point #2 - LENGTH of the meeting must be prior agreed.

I noticed that in most meetings I have organised/attended from before, length of the meeting is often secondary to the agenda that people would like to cover. And this shouldn’t be always. It may also be as equally important as the agenda, most especially if your target attendees have a very limited time to spare. Sure meeting could be a part of their responsibility but I am certain that employers did not hire employee for just meeting attendance. They have roles and responsibilities you are taking them away from for each meeting that you called them for. What if the meeting goes half or whole day once/twice/everyday of the week? Should you be the manager, you should not expect for these people to be able to work on their assigned tasks and submit by the deadline because they were with you during your meetings.

Other than the duration, frequency of the meeting must also be strategised. Don’t do meetings for the sake of having them. That’s absurd!

Point #3 - INSIST the set boundaries of the meeting (Agenda + Length).

Meeting attendees, especially bosses, must encourage, exhibit, and exercise SMART objectives all the time. Therefore, must insist on the agreed target/s. Anything outside of it must be filtered properly based on importance and urgency. Of course, if it is a matter of life and death, I am sure you will put down all these rules and formalities. So when it is not, it is only an intelligent decision to set a time for it. Again, don’t meet for the pleasure of having meeting, because that is way too displeasing.

Point #4 - GRACE the meeting exactly at the agreed start time.

Be diligent to honour your time and that of others by being punctual all the time. Just remember: Proverbs 13:4 “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.

Point #5 - NAYSAYING must be fend off.

In our analogy, the meeting-hijackers do not necessarily mean a purveyor of negative or opposing views. Sometimes meetings could also be hijacked by being unconscious that meetings have specific objectives to attain and that it is not appropriate to impair it with small talks, personal exasperations, latest life updates or simply anything that is off the target agenda and is delaying or extending the meeting longer. And this remains an act of naysaying or being on the opposition to achieve the objectives of the meeting.

But of course, there are actual naysayers or those people who will hijack the meeting by taking advantage of the moment to either/or steal the spotlight, grandstand/show off, debate, dominate, then later become highly critical/emotional. These people should be politely called to order whoever they are. But starting a workplace culture on identifying the difference between a model and naysaying behaviour during meetings will set the tone of any meeting across the organisation.

If ever you would reach that saturation point on a contentious issue, know when to move on. Don't linger on issues , save it for later.

As for me, it is a universal principle that people conduct meetings in order to ALIGN thoughts, ideas, and actions primarily to synergise for the benefits of many and not only a few.

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