The beginning of work meetings can be awkward. Someone will inevitably talk about irrelevant topics. Someone will forget to read the meeting agenda. Someone will sit down anxiously then rush back out the door. And someone will forget their notepad.
Even after the meeting finally begins, nine out of 10 people will daydream during the meeting, and 73 percent of people will work on other things.
That's why Oprah Winfrey kicks off every meeting with the same three questions to get everyone engaged and to set clear goals: "What is our intention for this meeting? What's important? What matters?"
Brendon Burchard, author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, says Oprah starts every meeting with those questions because high performers seek clarity. Clarity isn't something high performers get, but rather it's something they seek, Burchard explains. That's why they consistently ask themselves the following four questions: 1) How do I want to describe my ideal self?, 2) What skills do I want to develop and demonstrate?, 3) How do I want to behave socially?, and 4) What service do I want to provide?
Asking themselves these questions helps them to refocus. Likewise, asking questions to start off a meeting helps attendees refocus.
In the U.S. alone, Americans attend 11 million formal business meetings each day. That means that every meeting better be important, and the meeting agenda should be clear and simply stated. "Select date for the campaign launch," for example. There shouldn't be any "recap," "review," or "discuss," according to Burchard.
Following a detailed agenda and starting on time can reduce meeting times up to 80 percent. That's important given that the time employees spend in meetings has risen around 10 percent each year since 2000, which means that the average meeting length is between 31 to 60 minutes.
Though 47 percent of Americans consider too many meetings the biggest waste of time, meetings can be necessary to advance a project or organization—as long as they're constructive and intentional. If not, it doesn't only affect the individuals involved but also wastes $37 billion every year on time that could have been better utilized.
With Oprah's three questions, your next company meeting will be sure to result in decisions being made in an efficient manner.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.
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