We’ve all been there. Head into work. Got a full day planned. You’re going to strategize. Brainstorm new ideas that will help the organization build brand, influence key audiences and drive revenues. And meet with key executive leaders to start initiating plans to executing on these outstanding ideas.
A meeting about nothing–how to cut through the mindless minutiae
Then, it hits. The minutiae.
You get called into a meeting. The topic/agenda is sketchy at best. You’re listening, but really only half listening. They’re talking about implications of changing our HR benefits from one vendor to another. Or, how we’re going to switch payment systems or operating platforms in 2009. Or, whatever. It’s boring. It’s low value. But it’s necessary and you have to do it.
Or, do you?
Should we, as communications and marketing leaders, really be spending our time in these kinds of meetings and consulting and engaging with organizational partners around this kind of work? Is the work worth your time? If you worked for an agency, would your manager want you spending your time on this project?
These are the kinds of questions I, and I believe many other marketers and communicators struggle with daily.
Are we really spending enough time on the high-value work? The work that really matters? If it doesn’t impact or tie directly to your organization’s goals or strategies, should you be working on it? Isn’t that what our employers and clients pay us to do?
So what can we do? A few ideas:
* Start saying no to “those” meetings. You heard me. Say no. Pretty simple, really. I’m not talking about the client meetings where you’re presenting new ideas, discussing key initiatives or talking about plans for a major campaign. I’m talking about the meetings with no agendas. The ones where you know no work product will come as a result. The ones that feel like a meeting about another meeting–you know what I’m talking about. You need to get out of those meetings pronto.
* Be “slippery”. This one’s key. One of my favorite people in the PR biz, a good friend and mentor of mine is terrific at being slippery. She’s made a habit of letting the low-value, non-critical work slide off her allowing her ample time to focus on key areas like strategic planning, coaching key executives and other high-value work. Sure, she handles some administrative duties and sits in a few dull meetings from time to time, we all do. But it’s a pittance compared to the time she spends on the high-value work.
* Support your team. Junior staffers often feel unable to push back on client demands, putting them in a tough situation. They need to know you will back them up if they push back on the client and not leave them in a lurch. Make sure you take the time to sit down with these team members and reinforce that they’re doing the right thing and that you feel the same way. If these folks feel empowered, they will be able to consult more effectively and free up more time to focus on the right work.
* Consult–don’t take orders. If the client asks for a message they feel needs to be out right away, ask a few questions. Why do you feel it needs to be distributed immediately? What’s your goal with this message? What are you hoping your audience will think/feel/do? Usually by asking a few questions and getting into the nitty-gritty behind the “why” of the ask, you can push the timeline back a bit, consider an alternative approach or stay status quo. All of which can prevent you from spending wasted time on the initial request.
What do you think? Any other tips to add? Whatever you suggest will benefit us all–we need to get out of this minutiae business.