One of the biggest frustrations in organizational life is the meeting that overruns its allotted time. It inhibits your colleagues’ capacity to plan anything after the meeting and removes a sense of power and agency around one’s life that people need to feel satisfied and fulfilled in their work.
Everyone can tolerate a 20-minute meeting. No one enjoys a 20-minute meeting that took 45. (And inversely, no one enjoys a scheduled 45-minute meeting that only needed 20 minutes to complete yet still managed to expand to fill the time allotted).
The single biggest thing you can do to end a meeting on time is to start it on time.
Diligence on this point does several things:
It honors the people who were in the meeting ready to go at the allotted time.
It provokes future punctuality by those who walked into a meeting already in progress.
It creates a sense of stability for people as they plan their day.
A brief FAQ:
Q: What if there is only one person in the meeting when it is scheduled to begin?
A: Begin on time.
Q: What if my boss isn’t in the meeting when it is scheduled to begin?
A: Begin on time
Q: What if my company culture is loose and people are already habituated to wandering in whenever?
A: Begin on time
For a meeting to begin at the stated time, the leader must arrive early. How early depends on the size and complexity of the meeting, but five minutes is a good minimum.
Remember, your performance in a meeting is a key measure of your effectiveness in the eyes of your colleagues. Developing a reputation as someone who can run a meeting that ends on time is a crucial part of that. And the best way to end on time is to start on time.
Read more on who needs to be in your meetings, two mindsets that will sabotage your next meeting, and the three attitudes that set your next meeting up for success.