You rush into your office early at 7:30 to get a jump on the day. Your overflowing inbox shows several emails marked urgent. But they’ll need to wait because you know what needs to be a priority: getting that report out to the client by noon to include in his afternoon presentation. You promised. Your company’s reputation rests on that deadline.

“Did you get the word?” A colleague sticks her head in your doorway. “Casey just called a meeting for 8:30. Conference room 2100. Check your email.”

“No way! What’s it about? I need all morning to get this client report finished.”

“Mandatory. See you there. Maybe it won’t last all morning.”

Been there? Know that tight knot in the pit of your stomach? The fear of being pulled into an unannounced, unexpected meeting at the last minute—and at the worst possible time?

 

Perceptions Surrounding This Pet Peeve of Unannounced Meetings

Leaders who make a habit of announcing—or canceling—meetings at the last minute, according to what fits their schedule wreak havoc with everyone’s workday—and sometimes their entire workweek. Either the action implies lack of planning or that no one’s schedule counts but the leader’s.

Everyone else’s productivity plummets as they reshuffle the day’s projects—including client commitments. Last-minute or overtime meetings send a strong message to outsiders waiting for attention: “The manager here has decided your customers or colleagues don’t matter. Tough luck.”

Needless to say, those colleagues called into the unexpected meeting (or trapped in a marathon meeting) will not be totally engaged. They’ll be stressed about the unfinished project waiting on their desk and the looming deadline.

 

Steps to Prevent This Poor Meeting Practice

  • Set up ground rules for meetings, including how far in advance meeting leaders need to schedule and announce meetings.
     
  • Agree on what constitutes the basis for an emergency meeting: Input to prevent losing a big client? Major headquarters announcement? Staff shortages due to an epidemic and the need to reschedule workflow for the day or week?
     
  • Agree on a system for confirming attendance at a meeting by XXX hours before the meeting. This allows time for the meeting leader to cancel a meeting if key people such as decision makers or a technical expert who must provide input can’t attend.

Leading a team of diverse personalities can be a challenging proposition in ANY situation. Why increase the odds for dissension and disengagement by disrupting everyone’s schedule unnecessarily with an unscheduled meeting?

 

See Dianna’s new book Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done for more thoughts on leadership communication. Click here to download an excerpt.

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