Schools are rife with professional conversations, committees, and meetings. Each one of them is an invitation to contribute. Sometimes we’re compelled to contribute, sometimes obliged, and sometimes we can choose to contribute or not.
Some meetings, of course, are mundane, some are informative, and others are confronting and provocative. It’s in the latter kind that we matter most. If we don’t, we shouldn’t be there.
And it’s in those demanding engagements – at times when we feel elevated emotions and moved to comment – that we are forced to make a choice. Share our view and risk being shouted down, embarrassed, or challenged? Or keep our thoughts to ourselves?
After all, remaining quiet is easier – it helps keep the meeting moving along nicely – it helps maintain the status quo – it’s less complicated, trouble-free and painless.
And so we should keep quiet – if uncomplicated, trouble-free and painless is our aspiration.
Face to face meetings continue to play an important role in the functioning and optimising of a school. There are certainly benefits of meetings but there are also significant costs associated.
So, how effective are your meetings? Do you know how much they actually cost? Many leaders don’t really think about it, but meetings in schools are a big investment.
For example, if you have 100 teachers meeting for an hour, not only does that meeting cost 100 hours of time – the equivalent of two and a half weeks of work for one person – but it costs the school the equivalent of close to AUD$5,000 in wages (100 x $48.14*).
There are many ways a school could spend 100 work-hours and $5,000. And maybe a whole-staff meeting justifies the cost. But it’s certainly worth carefully considering other options.
Here are a few questions that might help reduce the cost of meetings:
- Does everyone need to be there at the same time in the same place?
- If the meeting is about sharing information, is a meeting the most effective and efficient way to do that?
- If the meeting is to make a decision, does everyone who is invited really need to be there to make that decision?
- Is there a very clear agenda and purpose?
- Can the meeting end as soon as the purpose is achieved or the decision is made?
- Could the meeting be 12 minutes shorter (that could free up the equivalent of $1,000 in salaries and two and half days of work time)?
Ultimately, there is no replacement for a really good meeting; they can be incredibly valuable, inspiring, and worthwhile. But we need to work hard to make them so. They’re expensive.
*48.14 is the approximate average hourly rate for Australian teachers.