Ending the Curse of Bad Meetings

How many of us have endured bad meetings?  How many still do?  The fact is, most of us fall into both categories.  We’ve grown up with bad meetings, and now we perpetuate them on others as sort of a leadership punishment mandate – whereby we feel a perverse obligation to make our team suffer as we did.

The ironic aspect of this disturbing trait is that we turn off the very people we are trying to turn on, and we waste both time and money doing so. bad meetings

What are the key reasons we as leaders tend to keep reinforcing this bad habit?

  1. We enjoy hearing ourselves talk in front of others.
  2. We believe unless there are meetings on the calendar, nothing is getting done (weird, but true!).
  3. We want to hear our direct reports give us information.
  4. Meetings indicate we are busy doing something, so we don’t have to talk on the phone or respond to texts and emails (which most of us do during meetings, anyway).

All these “so-called” reasons notwithstanding, there really are some good reasons to have meetings, particularly when we need to inform the team or arrive at a decision.

The key here is to use your “Big 6”™ leadership skills to design and implement a meaningful meeting framework and start ending the curse of bad meetings.  Here are some meeting tools for your leadership toolbox, using the “Big 6”:

  1. Set the Azimuth: Always publish a meeting agenda in advance.  Appoint a note taker.  Publish the minutes after each meeting, within assigned deliverables for the next meeting.
  2. Listen: The most effective meeting directors I have ever seen are the ones who spoke last at the meeting, not first.  Why?  Because they realized speaking first cuts off anyone who might disagree, or have a better idea how to look at a problem or find a better solution than they would have.
  3. Trust and Empower: What better way to trust and empower than to let your team set up and run meetings?  Appoint a high potential young leader to set up each staff update, for example, and give them room to be creative.  You’ll like what they come up with, and they will own the process and the outcomes.  Give each a hotwash (one on one After Action Review) once the meeting is over so they get feedback.
  4. Do the Right Thing When No One is Looking: Encourage mutual accountability in your meetings for every team member to bring in his or her deliverables on time and to standard.  One tool for this process is to not comment when someone does not meet his or her deliverable. Instead, speak with that person offline after.  This gives peers the chance to speak with them as well – hopefully prior to your conversation.  You’ll know you’re making progress when others express displeasure with a non-performer either during or after the meeting.  Then you’ll know peer pressure is kicking in.
  5. When in Charge, Take Charge: Make sure your meetings run on time.  Start on time, end on time.  One technique is to lock the door to the meeting room once the meeting starts.  Then, late comers have to knock to have someone let them in, or just don’t let them in at all.  The message will soon get through that punctuality is a hallmark of your meetings – that’s the standard.
  6. Balance the Personal and Professional: Devote time in each of your meetings to recognize birthdays, anniversaries with the company, births, and graduations.  Present awards and other recognitions as part of the regular agenda.  Take photos and post them on your website.  Meetings are a time for recognition of the good things in your team and the lives of your team members.

Make a personal commitment to rid your organization of long, boring, and unnecessary meetings.  You’ll see performance and morale improve almost immediately, and your leaders will have time to do what’s most important:  Grow more Leaders.

Enjoy the journey!