Question: Impactful meetings with busy team members

Though my new organization has a great culture overall, people in the department (I now head) do not respect each other's time as they should.

Some symptoms...meetings usually start late and go over time, some people call-in from their desks even while they are in the same building, it is considered OK to miss a meeting or come unprepared. For a quick meeting on short notice, it is like herding cats.

Before I joined, this department has been through a 20% downsizing over 2 years, and the message was "forget meetings, focus on deliverables." I want to be sensitive to the fact that staff is probably still overworked.

I have started by showing up on time myself, re-prioritizing workload for the most overworked managers.

What next steps do you recommend for pushing an effective meeting culture?

Expert Insight

Meetings certainly can be a resource drain. It may happen that an individual's day is booked solid in meetings, and none of them were his/her idea. That leaves options of come in early, stay late, or take work home to get individual work done. And the meetings themselves may be awful marathons of updating/reports where the main challenge is to keep your yawns discrete and avoid dozing off.

It might be helpful to develop a shared approach to meetings: no meetings without a defined purpose and desired outcome, no invitations to meetings unless your input required, updates distributed prior so people's time in meetings devoted to engaging and collaborating. Behavioral norms such as showing up on time, ending the meeting on time, and being prepared will happen when you consistently: make those expectations clear, follow them yourself, stop tolerating contrary behaviors.