5 reasons why canceling meetings is a bad idea for startups

by The Insights

Shopify’s decision to cancel all meetings with more than two employees has drawn widespread comment over the past 48 hours. It’s an interesting move that Shopify says will result in the removal of over 10,000 calendar events each year. But should you adopt a similar policy if you’re a founder running a startup?

The short answer is no.

For startup founders, meetings are a powerful tool. Used correctly, they should be motivating for participants and an effective way to collect hard-to-collect feedback. Rather than canceling meetings, founders should focus on creating strong meeting agendas that deliver engaging and inspiring content for attendees.

Choosing to cancel meetings can have many negative consequences:

Misalignment of the mission

No one properly reads emails, Slack messages, or other forms of written content. To cope with the incredible amount of information we receive every day, we skim. If you want your message to be absorbed and understood, you need to get in front of your audience and deliver that message directly to them. Then follow up in writing.

Failure to communicate frequently with your team leaves room for misalignment. Assumptions are made about the direction of the company. Key policies are interpreted differently. Rumors are starting to circulate. Not everyone pulls in the same direction.

As leaders of your organization, founders need to be visible and provide a consistent and reassuring presence. This gives employees the confidence to do their best and enjoy the relative autonomy of working in a startup.

It’s worth remembering that the perfect strategy you have in mind won’t be fully understood by your team unless you talk to them about it regularly. Team meetings are the perfect forum for communicating company strategy on an ongoing basis.

No real-time feedback

Facial expressions say a lot about what a person is thinking. The ability to provide feedback and see how your team reacts in real time is entirely lost without a meeting. Employees are unlikely to text you to say “it’s a stupid idea‘, but the way they react the moment you talk to them is hard to hide.

Without meetings, we put friction between the team and the founders. Very few people will proactively offer feedback if they don’t have to – why take the risk? But in a room, those barriers can be lowered, and helpful feedback can flow much more easily.

Weakened social ties

Meetings are not just meetings. It is the punch, the handshake or the hug on arrival. The personal catch-ups – ‘How is your family?‘ – remind us that we are all humans and not just units of work in a machine. The bio breaks when we meet someone we haven’t talked to in a while. And the occasion, particularly widespread in the United Kingdom, to go and have a drink afterwards in the pub.

Meetings create time for team engagement that bonds members. A team that enjoys spending time together is much more likely to work a few extra hours, go the extra mile to help a colleague, and engage in their work.

While the world has changed dramatically over the past few years, fundamental human behaviors have not changed and engaged teams will always outperform unengaged ones.

Inadvertent culture wars

Some of your team members might be thrilled if you cancel meetings. Others will feel isolated and miss the interactions with their colleagues that energize them.

Canceling meetings creates an unbalanced culture suited to a more introverted personality type and excludes those who would rather spend time together in person. By extension, it is much more difficult to create and develop a balanced corporate culture, where everyone feels like they belong.

Reduced employee visibility

We all want to be seen. We all want successes to be celebrated. Canceling meetings removes a powerful forum for founders to recognize their teams’ accomplishments, which in turn can generate significant goodwill.

Startup founders often look to large corporations to learn how to run their organizations. In this case, large companies have such a different dynamic from small startups that it would be a mistake to replicate their practices. To defy the odds and change the world, startup founders need to build teams that are aligned, engaged, motivated, inspired, passionate, and engaged. This cannot be done without meetings.

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