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No One Was Ever Motivated by a Meeting

No One Was Ever Motivated by a Meeting
By Steve Eddy

Thinking about getting some of the folks with whom you work together for a meeting? Think twice about that if your justification for conducting this meeting includes ANY of the following:
– Obtaining ‘STATUS’ updates from everyone. In the 21st Century, status updates can go out electronically, and be logged easily in one central place (Lotus Notes, Google Docs…) where everyone involved promises to go post updates. Your job as a BOSS (however defined), is to follow-up to cement good update behavior. Only meet when your team reports a lack of progress, and individual meetings do not resolve the problems. That is, have meetings to agree on useful changes in group behavior, not just to discuss the behavior itself.
– Launching an ‘initiative’ (Just say “No!” to initiatives…). Unless the participants are being asked to contribute thoughts and feedback to the initiative, why waste their time gathering to hear announcements that can be delivered electronically? Feedback can also be gathered quite productively via survey in this 21st Century without forcing people to air their ideas in public! Just as with marketing focus groups, in meetings the smartest input is often overwhelmed by the loudest input.
– Meeting without a specific, documented AGENDA, and an ironclad time limit. Meetings cost money (employee hourly rate x number of participants x time of meeting). The meeting therefore must have an outcome that earns the company at least that much in return. Put another way: This meeting will make a decision that has a $$ value of XXX, so we should do this in ½ hour or 1 hour. Lots of meetings are wasted talk. People thinking out loud or posturing. Strict agendas and time limits cut out that meeting “fat”.
– Doing anything that will NOT require minutes to be written down, and distributed to all attendees, WITH ACTION ITEMS AND DEADLINES. If people leave the meeting without assignments, tasks, responsibilities or items for follow-up, why meet? No progress has been made.
– Delivering a ‘one way’ message to your troops or peers, aka: Passing-on the meeting-equivalent of a big, fat ‘FYI’ email. The term “Meeting” should always imply that a conversation or dialogue will occur, NOT a lecture or monologue.
– Inviting people who will not instantly know ‘why?’ they should attend.
Setting an open-ended, non-specified, meeting duration. People feigning their death or going into convulsions during a meeting may be indications that you are doing this (I am not completely joking either)
Showing-off your skills in utilizing PowerPoint. Black text on plain white slides is all that is required 95% of the time. Fancy formatting and animation get in the way of the content, and extend the meeting needlessly.
Allowing people to “multi-task”, texting, answering e-mails… When decisions must be made (have I mentioned that is the main purpose of meeting?) full attention is required.
Exhorting your people to higher levels of performance without simultaneously providing them with the tools or resources needed to do so.
Using a meeting to express displeasure with just one of the attendees; Why wastes a whole team’s time to compensate for your unwillingness to confront the particular person in a one-on-one fashion?

What to do, then, if I can’t fill my time with meetings?
Celebrate! And you can still run meetings. Simply omit the errors I have listed here. Keep this mantra with you:
Your meetings must support Unshakable Trust, Pursuit of Truth, and Communication That Counts.
Measure your meeting plans against these three goals, and you will find yourself running fewer, shorter, more powerful meetings. If you are unsure about how to make meetings useful rather than roadblocks, get professional help! That small investment could reap a huge return in happier, more productive people around you. I know it works, having facilitated such transitions hundreds of times in the last 25 years.

Steve Eddy is a senior consultant with Bovo-Tighe and has worked for years to eradicate the useless meeting from corporate life.

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