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I've heard all of the advice about no laptops in meetings and I think I understand the reasons for it and I really do want to try it once we get back to work next week.

Here's my question:
When I'm in a meeting that I'm not running and discussion turns to something that's not at all relevant to me, what am I supposed to do? Do I use my pen and paper (brought for taking notes) to work on one of my top priorities or do I really just sit there and do nothing? Is that effective?

Sara
7-1-4-6

LouFlorence's picture

Sara-

Are you working in such total isolation that there is not some benefit to be an active part of the meeting even when the topic is not directly relevant? You may have some insight into the matter being discussed that others will not or it may cause you to think about your own accountabilities.

Part of my staff meetings is a chance for each person to talk about their own goals. Does the HR person really care whether operations will hit their production goals? Does the finance manager really care whether the latest efforts to improve housekeeping are working? I would suggest that the strength of any team lies in having a diversity of views. The more people understand each others goals, opportunities, risks, concerns or whatever, the more ideas and solutions will be available.

You attend meetings as a team member as well as an individual contributor.

Regards,
Lou

juliahhavener's picture

Sara,

I have to follow up Lou on this. I try to attend my boss' meetings throughout the week. They have NO impact on my team four days of the week. Wednesdays are his staff meetings, which I always attend. I make an effort to attend his noon meetings several days a week, too. Even though these meetings don't directly impact my team, it's an opportunity to lend my support to my peers, recognize their successes, and offer my own experiences and expertise in my piece of the business pie.

When it's off your area of effect, pay attention to what's going on - you'll still be able to contribute, and probably in ways you've never considered.

ramiska's picture

Sit. Listen. Learn.

Working on other tasks while someone is speaking is disrespectful to the others in the meeting.

PierG's picture

Two possibilities:
1. you are there for an error: if you can, go away
2. you are there for a good reason: do not multitask, just listen (that's not watching the infinite and working inside with your internal dialog :) ). It might be useful, sometimes it is not: I'm sure that in any case you will learn something about the topic, about the PEOPLE involved in the meeting ...

PierG

tcomeau's picture

I'm also with Lou on this: Figure out what you can do to contribute, even if all you can do is smile at someone else's success.

I take my laptop everywhere because I'm more effective at whatever I'm doing with my electronic crutch. But I make a point of starting each meeting with the top down, and pop it open when I need to check something or make a note.

M&M would probably make the point that there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness: The time you "waste" in the meeting may make you less efficient, but learning more about the entire enterprise is likely to make you more effective.

tc>

WillDuke's picture

I agree with everyone, though I'm surprised nobody has used the term "big picture." This is your opportunity to get the big picture. Any guesses on what your boss, or the boss's boss is paying attention to?

By getting a better understanding of the big picture, you might find ways for you and your team to become more effective.

I recall a story about a company that makes airplanes. The engineers designed them, then the production team built them. One day the engineers toured production and found that there were something like 17 different rivets being used. There really was no reason for this, and they were easily able to redesign everything with the same rivet. Production soared.

Okay, I'm paraphrasing the story, but I think you get the point.

Mark's picture

Attention must be paid.

Who are these people, and what can I learn that I can later use to the firm's advantage?

Mark

US41's picture

[quote="ssf_sara"]When I'm in a meeting that I'm not running and discussion turns to something that's not at all relevant to me, what am I supposed to do?

Sara
7-1-4-6[/quote]

You could interrupt and ask if they are done with the meeting agenda. If they are, let them know you need to be somewhere else. Gather your stuff, walk out. Just as starting your meetings on time sends a message, so does walking out of meetings that turn to chaos or go off course.

If you think you will be able to use your laptop in a meeting, ignore the invite and do not attend. Not attending ineffective meetings is very effective. Why go to a meeting that you know will be a session of multi-tasking for you?

That assumes you work in a big giant company like I do where you could be passive for three days and end up accepting all 500 meeting invites you receive every week and dying from lack of water and sleep due to the 5x booking of your calendar from 5am until midnight every day including Sundays.

The answer here is probably very much dependent on company culture, how much political power the person calling the meeting has, and how important your attendance is to the overall success of the meeting.

JorrianGelink's picture

If you have tons of meetings to attend to and have no room to do the work you need to do, I would recommend communicating with the person setting up the meeting and let them know why you may not be able to come.

"I'm sorry I can not attend this meeting because I have a project that is 80% done and what I will be doing is finishing these parts of the project - specific examples"

Once the boss realizes what you are working on, then he may let you know what they are covering, what parts that relate to you specifically or may let you leave earlier during the meeting. Meetings to me personally are respect and information, I head to manager meetings where I personally feel I don't need to head to them, but I go to them because I respect my boss, my team members and to contribute where neccessary.

A good example is all of us, everyone in these forums are in different business categories but we still offer help and feedback due to experience of the business and in the workplace.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="US41"]You could interrupt and ask if they are done with the meeting agenda. If they are, let them know you need to be somewhere else. Gather your stuff, walk out. Just as starting your meetings on time sends a message, so does walking out of meetings that turn to chaos or go off course. [/quote]

This reminded me of a scene from the film "The American President" (which I believe Mark has quoted from before). President Shepperd (Michael Douglas) is in the back of a car and two of his aides are arguing about how news of his relationship with a lobbyist (Sydney Ellen Wade, played by Annette Bening) has just hit the news and each is blaming the other for them being unprepared for this. Shepperd asks "Do I need to be here for this meeting?" Obviously, he's the boss so his word is law and no-one is going to castigate him for saying that or leaving a useless meeting to do something more effective. If you can, however, say "I don't think I need to be here for this." and walk out, maybe adding "Tell me what you decide." if appropriate, then you can probably save a lot of wasted time. We don't always have that freedom but it's good to be able to use it when we can.

Stephen