Authored by: Betsy Moore

Photograph: Justin DeSouza

Open the windows. Deep-clean the closets. Declutter the drawers. Dust those bookshelves. Replace the pizza with a healthy smoothie. Find some time to get outside and exercise. Yep, spring is almost here and we are bombarded with spring cleaning and detox ideas and recommendations!

There are few things more satisfying in the months of March and April than giving your space and your habits a proper spring cleanse! Sure, I bet you make it a priority to spring clean your home. Yet, do you have a habit of spring cleaning your meeting space and habits at work? Think about how much time you spend in meetings, I bet there are some habits that could use a bit of tidying up.

The Challenge:

We spend a huge chunk of our time in meetings. There are around 55 million meetings held each week in the U.S. That’s at least 11 million per day and over 1 billion per year. The majority of employees spend up to 1/3 of their workweek in meetings! The spring season is the perfect time to look at our meeting spaces and our meeting habits and make them a bit more spic and span!

Psychological Principle:

Clutter stresses us out and makes us less productive. There is science behind the fact that too much stuff and even too many people – too much of everything – is not necessarily better.

Think about the space you are physically in for most of your work meetings. Are you on Zoom in your home office? Are you at work in a conference room? Now, think about the environment. Is it cluttered? Is it a place you enjoy being in? Do you have papers and ‘stuff’ everywhere? Is the room white and boring? Does this space inspire creativity?

Now, think about the meetings that you attend. Have you ever thought of speaking up in a group setting and stopped yourself? Why did you stay silent? Were you scared of appearing unsupportive, worried about sounding dumb, or doubting the validity of your idea? Censoring ourselves can be dangerous because it plays right into groupthink. ”Groupthink” is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when conformity to a group and its ideals is so strong that it limits creativity in the decision-making process. Science actually shows us that the best decisions are the result of healthy conflict, opposing viewpoints, and alternative perspectives. The trick is setting up the right environment with the right people and the right company culture that allows for this.

Jeff Bezos famously came up with the “two-pizza rule”. At Amazon, no meeting can be so large that two pizzas can’t feed the whole group. Science shows that the smaller the team the better the collaboration. So, how many people can be fed with two pizzas? It depends on the size of pizza but science says that the most effective meetings have less than 10 people in attendance (J. Richard Hackman, a professor of social and organizational psychology at Harvard University, 1970).

Mindset Shift:
  • The 3 Rs – As you approach your work habits this spring, Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce positive new habits:
    • Reflect on the meeting habits, both good and bad, and your common triggers that lead to groupthink.
    • Think about ways to Replace the old habits with new ones.
    • Think about how your work culture can support and Reinforce these new habits.
  • Meeting Spaces Need to Inspire Creativity – Get rid of boring conference rooms. Add some color and declutter your meeting spaces and see if it helps inspire some creativity!
  • The More The Not-So Merrier – Experiment with the number of people in your meetings. Notice what happens when you have a large meeting. Do one or two people tend to dominate the conversation? Does the conversation break into two, even three?
  • Agenda Prep – Give people the agenda ahead of time so they can plan their contributions. Many people are nervous speaking off-the-cuff in front of others. If you clearly articulate the issues to be addressed and the information you’re looking for, group members can decide what they wish to contribute in advance.
  • Give Each Person the Floor – Ask everyone to bring two ideas to contribute. Give each person time to speak, and be comfortable with silences. This is especially important if you have a few outspoken people who typically take over or dominate meetings.
Performance Shift:
  • Experiment with “Zero-Based Calendaring” – This is basically putting everything in your calendar – your 15 minute dog walks, bathroom breaks, etc.
  • Put Yourself on Your Calendar – Don’t forget to schedule in time on your calendar for self-care.
  • Add Plants to Your Meeting Space – Science shows that having plants in the office can increase concentration, workplace satisfaction and overall quality of life. The study further found that plants make workers more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work. Don’t just add them to your office – add them to your meeting rooms too!
  •  Have Walking Meetings Outside – Instead of always meeting in a conference room, encourage walking meetings. If the weather is nice, take the walking meeting up a notch and go outside! This small action can significantly boost your happiness and creativity.
  • Decline a Meeting Invite – Take a look at how much time you’re spending in meetings. If too much, think about talking with your boss about restructuring them. We want strong teams. We want effective meetings. We also want pizza. Maybe a healthy smoothie as well.

If you want to learn more about running more productive meetings, reach out to Chris and his team!

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