So, the Congressional standoff is finally over. Well, partially over.
President Obama signed a bill today to end the government shut down and raise the U.S. debt ceiling to avoid financial default, reports CNN. Federal workers are back in the office and—for the many national parks services employees—outside.
Although the U.S. avoided default, it wasn’t without cost.
The mere wait for decision-makers to negotiate and the fortnight of near foreclosure cost taxpayers plenty. And, for government workers, the shutdown meant a total shutout of salary payments, subsidies, etc.
The problem is, when debating how to spend money, the government spends money. Often making a decision—any decision—is better than delay.
A new study, for example, confirms this idea when it found that canceling government travel arrangements for budgetary reasons ironically leads to more spending, less efficiency. According to a new study conducted by Rockport Analytics for the U.S. Travel Association, “cancelling government participation in key events carries significant costs and undermines important functions of government.”
“Public agencies at all levels of U.S. government have made deep cuts to travel and meetings budgets in recent years,” said Jon Gray, vice president of research & insight, Rockport Analytics, LLC, who conducted the study.
“Our research found that these across-the-board cancellations offer short-term savings at a much greater long-term cost.”
For example, the 2013 cancellation of the Military Health System Conference, an annual training event for several thousand military medical personnel, cost the government more than $800,000. That’s $800,000 to not attend an event.
In the same vein, the decision made by NASA to withdraw its participation in the April 2013 National Space Symposium, the world’s most prominent international space exploration and policy event, carried planetary-sized monetary and non-monetary consequences.
“Some 30 nations are represented at our symposium,” explained Elliot Pulham, CEO of the National Space Foundation, a private organization that runs the annual conference.
“Important international partnerships are jeopardized, important international programs are placed at risk, and the U.S. government places serious strain on relationships with countries around the world when it does not attend.”
So while the U.S. stood still trying to balance the budget, its allies became unbalanced, unhinged, and highly concerned with how America runs business. This degraded perception of U.S. financial security has a cost.
This macro-level analysis applies to the micro-business environment, as well.
Take law firm meetings. Below are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t cancel your meetings with clients or subordinates… as demonstrated by the U.S. government shut down.
When your assistant organized a meeting to discuss a case matter, five law firm professionals cleared their schedules. They canceled phone calls with clients. They interrupted work flow to attend. Suddenly, you decide to postpone this groupthink. Now, all this time and—most importantly—billable hours have been wasted. It’s likely that this glut cost you more than if you simply carried through with the thirty-minute meeting.
Don’t forget the costs of postponing might outweigh the costs of a bad decision. Sometimes any decision is better than none at all.
When you postpone a meeting, you’re tacitly telling your employees that your time is worth more than theirs. If you cancel a meeting altogether, you’re telling employees directly that can’t manage your time. The perception of your leadership is as important as your real, tangible ability.
If a decision must be made, postponing it won’t necessarily increase the information or resources available. At a certain point, reevaluating your options is like beating a dead horse. Present all the options, discuss them as a team, and then choose one with more pros than cons.
4. Long-term consequences
If you get into a pattern of canceling or postponing meetings, your employees may stop preparing for them. They may come to expect your bad habit of delaying. So, in the end, the one time you actually mean business, there may not be any business ready on the table to discuss.
Although most employees hate meetings, they are still a good way to boost the morale and cooperation among your team members. Meetings, over coffee or a brown-bag lunch, are scheduled to discuss a case or client. But, they also provide a forum for a general debate among colleagues.
So, even if you decide there’s nothing to discuss, don’t incur the costs of canceling. Go the distance, spend the money on travel, and sit in a boardroom. The long-term gain of increased camaraderie or communication among your employees will outweigh the costs of meeting sans agenda.
Scheduling meetings for the sake of meeting won’t increase employee productivity. But, indiscriminately canceling or postponing them once the decision is made might actually decrease it.
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