Some of my columns tend to be higher level and are intended to encourage you to think about topics or your business and others are in the weeds and very tactical. The topic of time and meeting cadence is both.
How you think about and go about using your time is the difference between the good and the average. How you leverage your time with your people can be the difference between whether they feel you and the business are effective or not.
As the author of “The Art of Time Mastery,” I am obviously a little obsessed with the topic and how you need to look at time. As we have gotten busier, more people are not only time starved but also making poorer decisions in how they are investing or spending the time they do have.
I often ask leaders or sales coaches, “How much of your time is dedicated to leading your people or developing your team?”—what may be the most important part of their job. The answer is typically 25% to 35% of their time, which is not a whole lot. It amplifies the importance of managers using their time wisely.
Nowhere is this more true than in meetings. Too many leaders take too long to say something simple and too short to explain something more complicated. Let’s take a look at some benchmarks to see how your timing matches up.
A Chance to Maximize Time’s Value
A huge amount can be accomplished in a short amount of time, but sometimes what seems efficient isn’t actually “effective.”
One example that we should all try to emulate is time in football, like the way a good quarterback runs a huddle. The meeting takes 10 seconds and in that time a good quarterback can clearly articulate a play, be it simple or complicated. It’s not a meeting to take the pulse of individual players or critique their performances. It is all about the next play. Football coaches can also serve as examples of good time management—the way a coach may call a timeout, for instance.
In the NFL, a timeout is two minutes. A good coach can use that time to dictate a new game strategy or address a weakness in the existing one. They can also leverage the timeout as a way to disrupt the cadence of the current game, to give exhausted players a breather when energy is what a team needs.
Business is not so different from football so far as it regards that sort of time management—you have many meetings of different lengths of time, used as means for a variety of ends, and their effectiveness relies on the person leading them. The following are a few examples of how to make meetings count.
Eight at 8s
My friend Chris Lavoie, vice president at Reborn Cabinets, has eight sales managers. During the pandemic he needed a way to take a pulse and keep his team aligned and focused. He launched his eight at 8s: eight-minute meetings at 8am. The meetings were short but mandatory, and during the time each sales manager is required to share their previous day’s accomplishments and current day’s goals.
When you want to have a short conversation to give an update you often only need 10 or 15 minutes, so don’t schedule for longer. These are not therapy sessions. These updates are answering three questions: where were we; where are we; and where are we going (and what if anything needs to change to get there)?
In 30 minutes you can accomplish a lot, but if your goal is to have a meaningful discussion or get some synergistic ideas it can be tough to fit it into half an hour. The best advice I can give for an effective 30-minute meeting is to set an agenda and stay on task. If the nature (more brainstorming or dealing with a grey area topic) of the discussion is not conducive to this, try then to set another meeting allowing the subject to fill the void rather than try to cram a tall topic in a too short block of time.
45-min coaching session
Many builder and remodeling business leaders as well as sales/production managers try to fit coaching sessions into 30 minutes. However, while you can check off a few boxes in that time, it may not be enough time to serve the meeting's purpose. Ask yourself after a 30 minute coaching session: Did I really help that person take their game to the next level? I find in 30 minutes, you can get updates and address a couple of issues, but it can be a strain to reach important depths in that amount of time. Consider making these meetings 45 minutes. Spend the first five to 10 minutes on quick updates, a further 15 to 20 minutes on strategies, and finally balance of the time on them (your relationship, their professional development and their stress and focus).
60-min leadership/sales meeting
Now that you are dealing with a good length of time you can get really in depth. In 60 minutes you can incorporate effective training. In 60 minutes you can establish a good dialog and reach worthwhile insights from others. Having a well thought out agenda is important, but these meetings are meant for thinking and discussing the future rather than focusing on the reality of now.
Today more than ever, time is a wonderful asset. But if you are allowing it to control you, it can also be a liability. I would encourage every custom builder and design-build remodelers, and every business leader in residential construction or otherwise, to every six months or so take inventory of your meetings and evaluate their effectiveness. Is the timing right; is the cadence right; is this even the right time to be discussing this topic? Understanding how you’re using your and your team’s time will help ensure you’re not wasting it.