Leadership

Meetings are a waste of time. We need more meetings.


Part 1 of 2.

 

Why are both of these opinions so prevalent in most organizations? Is it simply that most of us are surrounded by a bunch of whiners? 

No. And (although that guy in the Accounting Dept. may seem to tear-up pretty readily,) it's fairly clear that most people, in most companies, have legitimate complaints about most meetings they have to attend regularly.  Because I hear so much about this issue; I thought I’d discuss it a bit in this blog, and again in next week’s, as well.

No one looks forward to wasting their time, but the majority of comments made about meetings are that they fail to accomplish anything of real value. These are the most common issues:

Managers - frequently complain that they don’t have time to have regular meetings. They also say their staffs do not participate in their meetings, and cite that as evidence that no one really wants meetings anyway. Besides; e-mail is more efficient they claim.

Team members - are often dissatisfied because nothing of value is passed on during the meeting. They hate seeing the same colleagues always monopolizing the meeting time with issues which don’t affect others, and it makes them crazy when the boss gets conned by BS’ers.

And other issues come up, as well. These ones are noteworthy:

The meeting as a ‘learning environment’ -  Perhaps initiated by someone who believes they’re doing their subordinates a favor; these involve directing them to do things during the meeting which they wouldn’t do in their normal day. Examples included asking them to create and lead PowerPoint presentations to teach others,  or perhaps leading discussions about current events or  recently read books.  Well-intentioned perhaps, but misguided at the very least.  There’s a difference between job enlargement and job enrichment.

The meeting as a Detention Hall – These are those after-hours or weekend meetings in which nobody ‘has’ to show up; but everyone knows that they’ll be screwed if they don’t.  Often started by a boss who wants the team to know just how important a particular issue is, so (s)he says it must be dealt with even if that means extra hours on the job (usually for no additional pay. Ouch!).  May accomplish the set goal but that usually comes at the expense of whatever team spirit existed before.  In industries, regions, or companies with high employee turnover, this one can really add to the momentum.

Sharing: Tell the world -

1. Have you had any poor meeting experiences like these?  Or worse?  Can you describe them for others, (or is simply too painful to revisit)?

2. How are the meetings run within your organization?   On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being “shoot me now” and 10 being “I’m the luckiest person in the world”; how do you feel when you called to the next meeting?

Next week we’ll look at one of the most successful approaches for productive meetings.

 

-          john 

   Career Coach         

 

 

 

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

15 comments
Mac_444
Mac_444

I have three thoughts about meetings..... 1. Never delay the ending of a meeting or the beginning of a cocktail hour. 2. Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings, they did it by killing all those who opposed them. 3. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings."

nqunhua
nqunhua

I absolutely hate meetings and I agree with the writer...most are just a waste of everyone's time and a forum for some people to try and get attention. In my current position we have a status meeting once a month with the entire team...we have an agenda that we follow very closely. If someone has a grievance or a comment they are welcome to bring it up but the discussion is held to a minimum and taken off line if it goes on for more then 5 minutes or if it seems the problem affects only that team memeber. Weekly status meetings go like this: my director comes into my office or sends me an email, "What's the staus? Any problems?". In this way I don't have to hear a blow by blow account of every project the team is working on each and every week. The monthy status meeting lets everyone know what everyone else is working on, any specific problems that could affect the entire team, and what's coming up in the next few weeks. The impromptu one on one meeting with the director lets him know how things are going and any problems that he needs to take care of. This allows me to do my job and not get bogged down in meetings where I sit there thinking of all the things I need to do and could be doing if Miss Mary Sunshine would stop complaining about each and every problem she's had with her users over the last 2 years!

TheTinker
TheTinker

If you truly want to have better meetings, and be a better leader in general, I have found a one-stop shop on how-to's. It is www.manager-tools.com and their podcasts. I'm not a manager, yet. However, this podcast has made me much better at my current job and my chances of moving up the food chain improve with every podcast.

sieveboat
sieveboat

I completely agree. We try to keep our meetings as short as possible and with only the most critical staff present. We then send meeting minutes to other employees not in attendance.

TownsendA
TownsendA

The application of PALM methodology - an acronym for Purpose, Agenda, Length and Minutes can add value to meetings. Minutes are the deliverables to be produced by that person calling the meeting! A good chairperson is also as scarce as politicians that tell the truth. Keep it short, keep it to the agenda, give everybody a chance to participate and follow up afterwards on the deliverables.

OKNightOwl
OKNightOwl

Having spent my share of time in various meetings, I have found a couple of interesting and comical things. 1. In some organizations and in the Military, when you have a Project, Pre-op or Pre-Flight meeting, it is always to explain the project/mission, and everyone is focused - mainly because their lives and livelyhood are hanging in the balance. 2. General meetings many times end up with folks saying the same thing with maybe a vowel added or removed, just so it appears that they have a comment or input. These are the meetings that I hate, and I can probably tell who the offender will be. Really, these meetings get to be worse than an interview with the President, over whatever issue is hot that day - Everyone wants to ask the same question, or offer the same comments, without making it sound like the same question or comment. Maybe they are challenged in some way which prevents them from comprehending what the moderator and others have said, or they have had too many Starbuck's and/or trips to the Coffee pot. But these folks just drive me wild - kinda reminds be of the proverb "better to be though a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt". And it is amazing too, how often the "quite one" will come up with a real pearl of wisdom that quites down everyone, and gets things on-track. Are Meetings a waste of time - If they are focused and controlled, everyone understands their value to the team and the purpose - No. If it is just a forum to express just any viewpoint - Definately. But that is up the the one who called the meeting to handle.

RFink
RFink

Are where we save the minutes but kill the hours. Meetings -- Eat Doughnuts -- Draw org charts -- Meet your co-workers All on company time. Meetings -- the practial alternative to work EDITED: formatting

darinhamer
darinhamer

But only the meetings like you have described here. The PALM method sounds great! I have a great skepticism about people who say that all meetings are bad. These are the same people who generally will not return your e-mails or phone callse, which led to calling the meeting in the first place. Meetings allow everyone to hear the same issues, questions, expectations, and directions at the same time. But the meetings that are frustrating are the ones where there is either no purpose, no agenda, no adherance to schedule, and no deliverables (I would argue that minutes are not the only deliverables...decisions can be as well.) I want to see some kind of progress come from the meeting or it is a waste of time. But that isn't the meeting's fault. That is the fault of the person calling and leading the meeting.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

with food is is at the top of my priority list! ;)

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

and those are the kinds that put people on the spot and waste a lot of time as managers single out individuals for not completing their projects on time for reasons that are beyond their control. You wan't to know why many projects aren't completed on time? The reason is because some managers call too many meeting before there is anything major to report, thus wasting everyone's time instead of letting people do their work and complete projects on time. Having meetings every damned week to discuss the same damned thing without any updates is a complete and utter waste of everyone's time.

blknetinc2002
blknetinc2002

I have found that Internal Group meeting are not a waste of time, but meeting that involve other groups are a total waste of time in most cases.

blknetinc2002
blknetinc2002

I have found in my last Corporate Job that our internal Group meeting was great, because everyone knew what was happening and could make suggestion to resolve problems or help to divert potential problems, but I found meeting that included other Groups outside of ours were a big waste of time.

dick_kp
dick_kp

Meeting is like an art, it is only useful if you know how to appreciate it. Meeting is also a tool, the outcome always depends on how people using it. In a meeting, everybody have the responsibility to make it works. The chairperson needs to prepare the agenda (A) indicates the scope (P). He/She also needs to control the length (L) and make sure it is within the scope. The team members or participants should familiar with the content of the meeting before and participate in a contractive way. Minutes (M) should be the beginning of the next meeting and should also be part of the project plan. I do think the order "P.A.L.M" is important. The problems we have most of the time with meeting are either people are not prepared or they participate in a distractive way e.g. use meeting as a battle field for resources, blaming people, focus on themselves rather on the agenda. These can all destroy a meeting and even stop it in the future. Meeting never wastes people time, it is people who waste their own time.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

We engineers and system admins don't know squat about what the developers do, nor do we care, and vice-versa. Why should we have to sit in on a meeting where they talk about coding and data structures when it has nothing to do with my job functions? Also, I dount the developers are very interested in hearing about the latest Cisco routers and server hardware out there. Any manager who calls such stupid meetings needs a good kick upside the head.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

because they turned into finger pointing and bitching session where managers got to reprimand and chastise their subordinates in front of fellow coworkers. Here we were, engineers in our mid to late 30s' and 40', being yelled at by some punk manager in his early 30s' who is straight out of business school and has no fuggin clue about technical issues. If that doesn't create anger, resentment, and a desparate itch to sabotage their network and then quit after yelling obscenities at the manager, I don't know what is.

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