By Stuart R. Levine

Published in, Forbes

I have heard these staggering statistics surrounding unproductive meetings in the past, but they were once again confirmed in a webinar I hosted in November, during which over 100 senior executives were surveyed. The results were alarming. More than 50% surveyed said that their meetings never start and end on time and less than half of the meetings they attend achieve their objectives!

Study after study confirms that less than half of meetings are productive and your firm could be wasting a tremendous amount of money per year. It’s simple math. Assume the average salary of a manager at $125,000 a year and assume they spent about 25 hours per week in meetings. If 60% of those meetings are not achieving their objectives, that’s 15 unproductive hours each week or about 1.5 days per week which is 30% of a manager’s time. At 30% lost productivity, that’s equal to $37,500 per year. Even if the salary is lower or meetings are slightly more productive, companies are still losing $2.5 to $3.5 million per year in unproductive meetings when you factor in senior management’s salaries.

To start your New Year off right, here are six rules to run effective meetings which will in effect create a better culture of respect and accountability in your organization.

1. Every Meeting Should Be Approached As A Board Meeting

All meetings should mirror what goes on in board meetings. Boardrooms operate at the highest levels of business. In fact, board culture becomes the foundation for the culture and values of the entire organization. There is only so much oxygen in the room, so the purpose of the meeting is always defined with very tight agendas with well-thought out time frames that allow for an exchange of thinking to get to better outcomes.

2. Distribute Agendas In Advance

Board members receive their board books four to five business days in advance. The CEO calls each director before the board meeting to share the two to three things that are going to be discussed in advance. This air tight preparation ensures no surprises. People feel a responsibility to come prepared. When you put this stake in the ground, people respond.

3. Don’t Let One Person Dominate The Meeting

We all know the kings and queens of chaos. They dominate every conversation and don’t listen. Their goals is to pontificate and hear themselves talk because they are the smartest one in the room. The person facilitating the meeting has to say, “I got it,” or something to that affect. When the meeting is over, you can privately pull that person aside and explain that there are eight other brains in the room and we need them engaged.

4. Start On Time, End On Time

Know the billable time of people in every meeting. If a board meeting is supposed to start at 8 a.m., the meeting starts at 8 a.m. If it’s supposed to end at 4 p.m., it ends at 4 p.m. out of respect for shareholders, employees and all the stakeholders you serve. Take that experience in the boardroom and push it through your culture. What happens if bosses arrive late to meetings – how do you get around that? You need to have a one on one with that person, in a trusting environment, and explain that they are probably not aware of the impact are having on the 20 people in the room waiting. Run the financial numbers on it and share the consequences of these actions. Putting it in these terms as well as the need to deploy the best thinking to achieve innovation and productivity is another way to approach it. Starting and ending on time has to begin at the top of the organization.

5. Hold Meeting Participants Accountable

You can increase energy and collaboration by listening to others and reading the impact you have on others. When you ensure that your organization’s mission is the foundation for your meetings and strategies, better decisions are made. Even with tactical decision-making, if you laminate tough decisions against your mission and core values, it will guide you more effectively. Ensure every meeting ends with clear next steps and hold meeting participants accountable. Holding people accountable will create a productive and energized environment. After the meeting is over, follow up with a short summary memo and punch list. Ask your colleagues for feedback on your meetings by conducting a meeting debrief which shows you care and are interested in improving the effectiveness of your meetings.

Begin the next year by committing to one of these rules each week to drive a new meeting management culture throughout your organization. Share these rules with your team and set the right example. You will be amazed at how the improved results will cascade through your organization. Leaders need to lead and if you start this transformation journey, your behaviors and actions will serve as a model to emulate. Improving meetings is the way to not only improve profitability, but enhance strategic results and execution, improve communication and engagement and achieve greater collaboration. By ensuring accountability and follow through, you will strengthen organizational leadership capacity. Meeting skills are definitional for your productivity and the productivity of your organization.