Should I cancel a meeting? Points to consider….

Canceling internal professional meetings can hurt your success as a leader, both immediately and down the road. By canceling or postponing meetings with your employees, your behavior tells them that the meeting topic AND THEY are not important to you. This is a dangerous mindset to develop in your employees because feeling undervalued will produce lower morale and productivity.

Beyond this, if you chronically cancel meetings, your ability to schedule and run efficient meetings will be impaired. Your assistant who schedules the meetings will no longer receive quick and accommodating replies to his requests on your behalf. Important meetings will get waylaid by, “I can’t possibly meet at that time” responses rather than, “I will absolutely be there, thanks” responses. This also makes your assistant’s job more difficult because responses to his emails will be more terse since he has to communicate canceled meetings often.

Thankfully, you are in control of whether you schedule or cancel meetings. Below are a few questions to ask yourself.

Before you schedule a meeting:

  • Am I ready for this meeting? If so, schedule it and plan to prioritize attending. If you’re not prepared for it yet, don’t schedule it until you are. Gather what you need first or plan time in your schedule before the meeting to do so.
  • Do we need a meeting on this topic? Always consider that meetings are taking up your time and your employees’ time. If a meeting isn’t necessary to convey information or discuss ideas, then don’t schedule one.
  • Can I be there on time? Never schedule a meeting to which you plan to arrive late. All meetings should start and end on time. Doing otherwise tells meeting members that their time is not important. It also wastes valuable time that your employees could be using to be productive.
  • How long does this meeting need to be? If you only need 15 minutes of time, don’t schedule a 1-hour meeting. Conversely, if the topic needs 2 hours of time, plan accordingly. Always starting meetings on time ensures everyone will arrive a few minutes before each meeting and you will be more likely to finish on time.

Before you cancel a meeting: 

  • Am I afraid of something that might occur in the meeting? If so, talk to a trusted advisor, executive coach, or friend before the meeting to develop a plan for how to handle potential difficulties.
  • Why did I schedule this meeting? If you’re not sure, then revisit your process for planning meetings and consider the questions above. If you’re willing to cancel a meeting, was it worth scheduling in the first place?
  • Will productivity go up or down if I cancel this meeting? If it will go up because the meeting is not important, then cancel, explain why you’re canceling, and revisit your reasons for planning meetings in the future. If it will go down, either because your employees won’t have enough information to be productive or because morale will further decline, then don’t cancel it. Consider having a shorter meeting instead – everybody will love you for it!  Or have someone else run it, but only if they have the knowledge and authority to make decisions during the meeting. In the latter case, plan to show up for a few minutes during the meeting to send the message that the topic is important and that you are confident in your substitute leader.

Keep in mind that your time is also valuable, so planning meetings that aren’t necessary is not helpful to your employees or you. The end goal should always be increased productivity, either directly through information sharing and planning or indirectly through preventative measures such as safety meetings. If a meeting doesn’t support productivity, don’t schedule it. If it does support productivity, schedule it and attend it at the appointed time.

The bottom line: be respectful of your employees’ time. If you must cancel due to an unforeseen death, then explain and cancel. Otherwise, hold necessary meetings on time and don’t schedule unnecessary ones. Your entire staff (and you!) will be much happier and more productive.