When I was serving as the Trivandrum Police Commissioner, I once skipped a useless meeting called by a senior government official.
The next week, when my assistant shared my weekly timesheet, she showed an internal meeting that I had never conducted. When I asked her to explain, she sheepishly smiled and said, “Sir, there was no such meeting but you did not go for that other external meeting.
“So if they ask why you did not attend, you can say that you were busy with an internal meeting. That is why I am showing it.”
I told her not to do so and closed the matter.
But it also shows our mindset: Meetings are apparently sacrosanct – it is ok to be unavailable if you have a meeting but not so if you are doing your work thoughtfully.
From the little that I saw, most government meetings were useless, including the ones that I had to conduct. Things in the private sector may be better, but just marginally.
We don’t have to attend meetings to create value. Most value is created by thoughtful, focused work. That is what should be sacrosanct – not meetings.
Let us build organizations where people feel secure to decline useless meetings in order to do focused work. They should not have to pretend that they have another dumb meeting to attend.