Friday, June 18, 2010

Demand Better Meetings

I wrote on Monday about running better meetings. I got some interesting responses from readers and other friends (including my business partner who wondered if we follow my own rules for meetings when we discuss issues! We do -- for the most part!). The most interesting comment came in an email from a friend who added; "If you attend meetings you need to demand that the person running the meeting does not waste your time". Hmmmm, good point!

If you attend regular meetings for work or volunteer activities you have the right to expect a productive use of your time. Many people hate meetings because they are a big time suck, but these meeting participants never do anything to change the death spiral of useless and ineffective meetings.

If a meeting sucks the major responsibility rests with the leader. However, if the people who are in the attendance do not demand better function, then they deserve the crappy meetings where they are held prisoner.

If you are part of a group that has weak meetings you can step up and make them better. Talk to the leaders and ask them how you can be the solution. Too many people are passive about sitting in bad meetings and then complaining about them later. Do not be that person who gossips and undermines the leader for their horrible meetings. Take action to help make meetings better.

1. Lead by example. Show up early and be prepared to participate. Do not read online articles or communicate by email on your laptop or smart phone during meetings. And never roll your eyes with your closest friends (you think others do not see that? Come on!). Always work to promote the common good of the group and advance discussion.

2. Ask for a defined meeting purpose and agenda. Talk with the leader and let them know that you want to help make better use of his or her time in the regular gatherings. Let them know that you are willing to take on the project of the agenda if they do not have time. Let them know that the meetings are not well received in their current format (they may not know!).

3. Hold others accountable to topics and time frames. If you have people in the meeting who go off on tangents or talk too long, talk with them in private about how you need their help and leadership skills to improve the meetings. Do not attack them for their being verbose, but instead appeal to their need to be heard, but channeling them into a champion of efficient meetings.

4. If none of the above works, do not quit looking for ideas that can change the meeting culture. I promise that your meetings can be better. I have seen many companies and volunteer groups improve meetings.... but it takes effort and the right determination. Maybe you need to become the boss or run for president of the organization. Remember, when you become the leader, make sure you are not the cause of more crap meetings in the future!

Have A Great Day.



Eugene Sepulveda said...

arm chair facilitation - we should all know how to do it, helping out the chair and committee when it's needed

I have lots of arguments with friends/colleagues about being on blackberry while in meetings. I'm sorry but I refuse to give this up for meetings more than 6 people or so. Just too high a probability that during the meeting someone is going to be talking about something I don't have to hear or have an opinion on. Or, sometimes I'm looking up something on the web in order to further contribute. Don't invite me to your meetings if you are offended by this. I will get over not being invited.

Terry said...

Good points on improving meetings. Another point to consider: Who needs to attend the meeting? There are times it seems as if a meeting invitation was sent to everyone on the company's email list. Not everyone needs to attend meetings. You do not need to accept every invitation. Be Selective.

Maybe you should start a gallery of examples of bad meeting behavior. You recommend, "Do not read online articles or communicate by email on your laptop or smart phone during meetings." Recently I was in a meeting where the presenter paused the meeting several times to answer text messages. "Sorry, that was really important." As the presenter, your text message was more important than the 15 people at the session?

Go figure .....