Walk the Path: Use Viva Insights to Reinforce Good Meeting Habits
In the 1999 film, The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
As leaders, we do all sorts of things to develop better productivity for ourselves. We read books, listen to podcasts, and discuss best practices with each other. That’s all great. It’s a necessary first step in the process. It’s hard to improve if we are ignorant.
But what if we find a gap between our newfound knowledge and our actual behavior? What if we find that old habits die hard? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I think a lot of us have a hard time with this.
The Art of Declining Meetings
Nearly four years ago, I wrote “The Art of Declining Meetings.” It’s been one of my most popular articles. I get a lot of engagement whenever I repost it. In the past year, I’ve spun this off into a presentation that I’ve given inside my company and outside to five different groups.
The premise is that meetings aren’t just a part of the job. Meetings ARE the job. Meetings are the vehicle through which we get nearly all our work done. If we can better manage our meetings, we will drive better outcomes for our careers.
To make an even finer point on this, I read a fascinating article recently on Bloomberg that claims big companies waste $100M a year on useless meetings. So, this isn’t just a problem, but it’s a $100M problem.
Back to Neo in The Matrix, it’s not enough to just know what to do. How do we walk the path? How do we alter our behavior on this subject?
I used to blame Microsoft for our problem with meetings. They make it too easy to fill our days triple-booked with 30-minute, back-to-back meetings, which is completely insane.
So, if the blame belongs to Microsoft, I must also give them some credit for offering a practical solution. Microsoft launched Viva Insights a few years ago. It’s included in most of the Microsoft 365 bundles.
There are a lot of features in Viva Insights that help with productivity, but I’m just going to showcase one of them.
This is not a demo with fake data. This is a screenshot of my personal results:
In the rest of this article, I’m going to analyze a sampling of my results:
The heading reads, “You organized 33 meetings and were invited to 74 meetings in the last 4 weeks. Explore your habits below.”
- Organizing 33 meetings and getting invited to 74 meetings over 4 weeks proves my earlier point. Yes, indeed, meetings are my job, they aren’t just part of my job. That’s a lot of meetings.
- I make a lot of meetings for other people, so I better do a good job of it.
- “Explore your habits.” This isn’t what you should do. This isn’t what you want to do. This isn’t what you say you do. This is what you ACTUALLY do. Microsoft knows. Now you can too.
Advanced notice: How much of my life is planned out, strategic, and calm, vs. how much of it is a reactionary emergency? Looks like 70/30. Part of my job involves firefighting, but not much of it. I’d like to get stat closer to 90/10.
High attendance: I get 72% attendance at my meetings. It’s summer. Folks are taking PTO, and I’m totally cool with that. But that could also be an indicator that I’m over-inviting people to my meetings. If we can get the job done with 72% of the attendees, are we potentially wasting the time of the other 28%? It’s probably worth finding out if I’m over-inviting. That’s a productivity killer.
Ended on time: At our company, we standardized on creating transition time, so 30-minute meetings end after 25 minutes and hour-long meetings end after 50 minutes. That’s great, but how good am I at actually ending when we are supposed to instead of going all the way up to the start of the next meeting? Now I know exactly how good I am. 81% of the time, I do it right. 19% of the time, I run over. Room for improvement for sure.
No overlap with other meetings: I believe it’s critically important to resolve meeting conflicts. I don’t leave myself double-booked. I accept one and decline the other. I make a choice in advance and communicate that choice to the meeting organizers. That’s common courtesy and it prevents other people from wasting their time wondering if I’ll show up or not. 91% of the time, I make good on that. I need to get this figure to 100%.
You didn’t multi-task: When I first saw this stat, I gasped. Not because of the result, but because it exists. I figure if I act like I’m paying attention to a boring meeting, but I’m busy perfecting my pivot table on my other screen, no one will know. But Microsoft knows! And now, I have the opportunity to look in the mirror and face the facts. Multi-tasking is a no-no. If you are multi-tasking in a meeting, I humbly suggest you probably don’t need to be in that meeting. Looks like I’m guilty as charged 7% of the time.
Joined on time: We all have people in our lives that say, “If you aren’t early, you’re late.” Those people are pretty over the top when it comes to punctuality. Well, I’m pretty close to that. I HATE being late to things. It doesn’t matter if it’s in my personal life or my professional life. I try my hardest to show up on time. If I’m late, it’s usually beyond my control. Turns out, I manage to show up on time 98% of the time. How about you?
RSVP’d to invite: The meeting organizer starts the meeting and waits a minute for everyone to join. They check the tracking tab on the meeting to see who accepted and who declined. Then, they see the dreaded “None” in the response column. Grrr. If you can’t tell, this one is my biggest pet peeve. Accept or decline meetings. Don’t leave them without a response, keeping your options open. Make a decision and communicate that decision. Of all the stats on this chart that I need to hit 100% on, this one is at the top of my list. I’m very pleased to see that I’m walking the talk on this topic.
“There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” Viva Insights provides a much-needed look in the mirror on this topic. Old habits die hard. A little self-reflection and accountability to real performance can help us all improve. At the end of the day, our ideals don’t matter nearly as much as our behavior. Let’s all walk the path together.