Let me just say, if a meeting invite feels like death by 1000 papercuts, you have a problem.
I have been included in so many bad meetings I have meeting apathy and may never recover. How about you? Do you have meetings about meetings? Are you booked back to back? Do you sit in meetings and wonder, why am I here?
Even worse, do you call the meetings? If so, you need to check in on your motives…
Somewhere in the late 90’s, Leadership 101 classes extolled the virtue of communicating with the team. Bad leaders, thinking that meetings would be the answer, started scheduling meetings with everyone about everything. They were thinking – YAHOO, Look at me – I’m COMMUNICATING! These same leaders also started sending 6-page emails with the same thought, “The more I say the more they hear – I am FANTASTIC at this!”
Unfortunately, this is about as far from the truth as it gets.
Seriously, how many of the monster emails do you read? Even better, how many of them came at 3 AM? #getalife #mybossisapain
Unfortunately, meetings and lengthy emails become the “communication” method of choice for bad leadership. Both are serious morale killers.
Today we focus on fixing the meeting problem…
If you are calling the meeting
Think your meetings are valuable? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are people in your meetings are regularly on their phones?
- Are you considering banning laptops?
- Do people ignore your meeting requests?
- Do your participants regularly skip your meetings because they “had something come up?”
- Are your meetings focused on the contribution of one or two people?
- Do your attendees frequently get involved in “side” conversations?
- Do your meetings always involve food?
If you said “yes” to any of the above, consider your meeting card revoked.
Seriously, if you were able to answer “yes” then your meetings have a serious problem that needs to be addressed before you take any more time out of the day.
STOP with the generic invite everyone, let’s all chat, more time talking about nothing than something, I’ll just talk at you, 2-hour, no one gets anything out of it, why am I here meetings.
Want to have a meeting but don’t know where to start?
First – the what not to do list…
- Don’t hold another meeting that doesn’t have an agenda of RELATED topics.
- Don’t hold another meeting where people are invited and have no idea why.
- Don’t spend another minute “shooting the S*$%” in a meeting.
- Do not “bribe” people to attend with food.
When you are serious about meetings that ADD value, try the following:
- Get clear about meeting goals and share them – in advance.
- Draft an agenda and stick to it.
- Use the “informational” meeting sparingly (think “state of the Union”).
- Informational meetings should be short and followed with written content.
- Interactive meetings should be longer and should be preceded with written content and followed with a summary of discussions (designate someone as note taker).
- Encourage participation, everyone should be engaged in the discussion or everyone should be silent, set the expectation in advance.
- Connect with the people who were the “offenders” in past meetings. Find out why they didn’t participate.
- Allow – nay – EXPECT people to opt out of meetings.
- Unless it is obvious, make sure each person understands why they are there and what their expected contribution is.
- Assume #9 isn’t obvious.
Meetings should ALWAYS provide value to the attendee, not to the presenter. When planning a meeting, think about the participant takeaways and make sure they happen effectively. Consider and tailor the delivery of information to the different personality styles.
After a meeting check in with people who did not contribute, find out why. Change the next meeting as a result.
If you are a participant
If you have ever attended one of the above horror shows, this is your permission to decline going forward. DO NOT waste your time. Demand meetings that provide value to everyone who participates.
How can you do that without alienating everyone?
First – stop contributing to the madness:
- Do not derail a meeting with your own side agenda
- Do not attend a meeting just because you were invited
- Do not monopolize the discussion
- Do not entertain others during a meeting
- Don’t refuse to come because there isn’t food
When you are invited to a meeting, be prepared to do the following:
- Ask the sponsor for a copy of the agenda, indicate that you have a conflict (your daily work) and you want to be sure you can add value.
- Make a note about “off-topic” questions to discuss at the end.
- Take notes during informational meetings.
- Request talking points for interactive meetings, this is especially important if you are an introvert and need time to process thoughts away from the group.
- Participate accordingly. Say your piece and then be quiet.
- If you have behaved badly in past meetings, get honest about it. Being on your phone or laptop working means you do not find the meeting content valuable, opt out of the meeting or get engaged.
- If you don’t know why you were invited, ask.
- Respectfully decline meetings that do not require your participation.
Added Value – the right kind of meeting
The most important thing to consider when participating in or hosting a meeting – time is more valuable than money. Think about how each person gathers and stores information. Consider the value of every single participant’s time before spending it in a meeting.