Most Meetings Don’t Work – 5 Tips to Transform yours

people walking

In today’s fast paced corporate environment many business meetings can be complex and demanding decision making forums.  It is often the case that attendees are challenged with the paradox of preparing intensively for every conceivable eventuality whilst also being ready to improvise in a heartbeat when in the room.

I believe there are 3 types of management meeting.

The amphitheatre

This is the arena full of politics, personal agendas and egos  which does very little for fellowship and business growth.

The rising pressure businesses face to innovate, increase profits and reduce costs as they are squeezed by stakeholders can lead to a rather challenging meeting fraught with:

–         Conflicting interests and agendas

–         Suspicion, doubt and confusion

–         One-upmanship

–         Ambiguity and vagueness

–         Every word and intention under scrutiny

Often the net result of such characteristics inevitably leads to professionals dreading the monthly interrogation; sorry, I mean’t meeting.

The graveyard

The second type of management meeting is nowhere near as exciting.  In fact, nothing much new ever happens there and it’s deathly boring.  It’s so tedious that its participants are as equally troubled and depressed at the prospect of attending them as those formerly mentioned.

Why are they so dull?

In short, it’s the same people sitting at the same seats talking about the same things in the same way with nothing ever getting done.  These meetings are often dominated by the same one or two voices and tend to either focus on the trivial or the complete opposite; wishful thinking, but either way nothing happens.

The party

This is the third type.

This kind of meeting is not only highly effective but dare I say a pleasurable place to be.  In this meeting you will find:

–         Clear and charismatic leadership

–         Vision and clarity

–         Respect, integrity, camaraderie and unity

–         Human beings

The participants in the third type of meeting know and understand that being professional doesn’t mean you have to be deadly serious and rigid all of the time.  Every organisation would love to be in this group and indeed many would be deluded in thinking they are, although a bit of honest talking may reveal some uncomfortable truths.

If your company meetings are already akin to ‘the party’ congratulations. If however you’re not quite in the amphitheatre or graveyard but you’d benefit from some of the characteristics of ‘the party’ you may need your attendees to agree to a contract.

1.  Leave your ego at the door

The first term is that everyone agrees in advance that whatever happens they are to leave their egos at the door and stop trying to look good at someone else’s expense.  It’s human nature to strive to perform and look good in any setting where we co-habit a room with fellow human beings.  I believe that one of the greatest challenges professionals face is to stop fanning their feathers in company meetings and to enter with just one agenda; making the business look good, not themselves.

2.   Listen more than you speak

This is for the person who unconsciously or consciously dominates the meeting and always has to have the last word. I’ve long held a belief that many people don’t truly listen, it’s my belief that they are often just waiting to speak. The two things are entirely different of course and it is crucial that in today’s meetings we all stop waiting to speak and really start to listen.  That means setting aside judgments and assumptions and just listening.

That’s a hard thing for most of us human beings to do, but imagine the impact if we all truly listened.

3.  I’m right, you’re wrong

Have you noticed that even a room full of highly intelligent, creative and intelligent adults can sometimes appear a little more like a kindergarten class?  There’s nothing worse than witnessing a room full of adults playing a game of one-upmanship and point scoring with the sole objective of ‘I win, you lose’.

That needs to be left at the door too and the contract should clearly state commitment to a new objective of win – win.

4.  No more justifications and explanations

I am often surprised by how much time is taken up in meetings with long, laborious and defensive justifications and explanations.  The contract should state that everyone will agree to respect their colleagues by getting to the point swiftly and articulately.  If you make a mistake, accept and admit it without the 35 minute explanation.

Let’s just tell it as it is and make it easy for each other to do so.

5.  We are really all the same

Wouldn’t it be great if when we entered any meeting we did so fully conscious of our sense of self?  That means that whilst we may all have our own departments, budgets, deadlines and pressures we really are all the same.  Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t mean you have to leave compassion and empathy at the door.  It’s worth remembering before you sit down that we are all sons and daughters, or mothers and fathers and we all have many things in common aside from the business.

Not least of which is the need to connect with each other.

It’s a tough ask I know but if you believe there is scope for improvement in the effectiveness of your management meetings  and you’d like to go to ‘the party’ you really need a contract like this.

The day before your next meeting have a quiet word with the person who called the meeting and will be chairing it. Tell them about this great article you read about how to get the most out of meetings and improve their productivity and ask for their permission and approval to try something out.

Once you have their blessing either you or the chair person will write the 5 terms up on a flip chart as you explain them to the attendees asking for their sanction before you begin the meeting.

Does it sound idealistic?

Perhaps it is, but i believe we owe it to each other and the business to aspire to create the most enjoyable and productive meetings possible.

If you called the meeting and will be chairing it then give it a try yourself and watch the difference it makes.

I did and it’s transformational.

Enjoy ‘the party’.

Connecting really is everything!

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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your leadership skills are you may want to take a look at our leadership training and leadership coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Image: Courtesy of flickr.com

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