Dear Small Business Owner: Are You Preparing to Prepare? If so, Stop!

05/03/2012 10:50 am ET | Updated Jul 03, 2012

Are all of your "planning" meetings actually accomplishing anything? Are you by chance still preparing to prepare? If so, stop the insanity!

When time is of the essence, it's often "time" that cannot be found -- due to the rigmarole of endless gatherings.

If you find yourself calling meetings, about meetings so you can prepare for that next meeting -- you're not only compromising your bottom line, but the productivity and sanity of your team as well.

Preparing to Prepare is Procrastination

Some may recognize "excessive meetings" as role justification, micro-management and as an insecurity mechanism (i.e. the left hand didn't get the right hands memo). Fortunately, over-planning is a learned behavior that can be unlearned.

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours. - Milton Berle

Excessive preparation, in the form of meetings, can foster a cyclical "analysis paralysis" mentality and lead to procrastination.

As a small business owner, it's important to lead from the front. It's unnecessary to call a committee on whether or not you should form a committee.

Because excessive planning has been known to:

Inhibit productivity: Holding unessential meetings could indirectly cut into your team's performance, morale and ultimately, your bottom line.

Stifle leadership: As a leader, your employees rely on you to make "tough calls." If you are irresolute in your decision-making, and require a second, third and fourth opinion -- you stand to lose the confidence of your peers and colleagues.

Promote groupthink: It's quite common for faulty decision-making to occur in a group setting. Groups experiencing groupthink do not consider all alternatives and they often times desire unanimity at the expense of quality decisions.

How to Effectively Prepare for Anything

Effective preparations result in execution. If you're ready stop preparing and start doing, first you should:

Limit meetings: Ask yourself, "What is an effective number of monthly meetings?" Believe it or not, there is a point of diminishing returns -- where one more meeting won't contribute a single ounce of value or return.

But when you do meet,

Create an agenda: Clarify the key points and ending goal of your next meeting. And then ask yourself, "Will a meeting accomplish my goals?"

Be concise: Get to the point and stick to it. Foster collaboration through a Q&A session at the end. We've all been privy to one too many meetings that have spun out of control, off topic and wasted valuable time.

Define next steps: What now? Identify a desirable outcome; establish accountability and leadership within the team to carry it out.

Don't misconstrue this message. Collaboration is essential in so many ways, but many entrepreneurs can unknowingly associate it with ineffective tactics (i.e. useless, unconstructive meetings).

Collaboration is best justified when execution is a clear factor. Before you call your next meeting, ask yourself -- Is there a way we can become more agile, smarter and effective in team communication? Can we cutback meeting schedules and replace them with more purposeful interactions?