October 2019: Breaking the cycle of bad meetings

We’re making time for bad meetings, gatherings which often leave us feeling frustrated, bored and tired.

And it’s become a global pastime. According to one source (HBR 2017) we spend an average of 23 hours a week in meetings. Do you dare to tot up your actual total? If you do, put a tick next to all the ones that you thought where really worthwhile. What sort of percentage are you running at? How many hours of your week are you losing to non-productive activity?

Of course we’re not all in the happy position of being able to pick and choose which meetings to attend but as the person calling or running the meeting, you can have a very strong influence on how things run, how much quality thinking and discussion occur and what results from it all. But even if that’s not yet your place on the organisational tree, get these 3 tips in front of a person near you who is.

1.    Go into the meeting with the objective of furthering your understanding.

If the truth be told most of us go into meetings with an agenda to push. And push we all do, loudly or quietly. The problems of taking over and shouting people down are well known. But whilst staying quiet until your item turns up may not be an actively obstructive thing to do neither does it help discussions to progress. Being an active listener/learner helps those with the speaking parts to know they have been heard and stops them repeating themselves. That means your turn will come around quicker and your investment in listening may even be immediately repaid.

2.    Make it your mission to hear from everyone.

Pay particular attention to those with whom you are most likely to disagree – they are, after all, the ones that you have to win over or by whom you will have to be won over, in order to move things forward. It goes almost without saying that ‘still waters run deep’. Make it possible for quieter people to step forward to share their ideas and misgivings. They will have had the benefit of watching the traffic of the conversation hurtling past them – at the very least make use of their more dispassionate overview.

3.    Begin with a ridiculously small agenda.

Small agendas are as exciting as they are rare. How would it feel to you if you walked into the meeting and the leader said: "we only have one thing we need to talk about and move forward today – and we have one hour in which to do it." Ever diminishing attention spans, packed schedules and fatigue all point to the need for short, focused meetings with singular goals.

 

When we set out to learn, to listen to each other and to stay focused things get done –almost by accident.

View all blog posts