Practical Leadership

I Really Don’t Like Meetings

I know, I know, sometimes meetings are necessary, but in my experience very little actual work gets done in most meetings. Yes, of course, senior leaders still need to be informed, so the “status/update brief” is a necessary component of running most large organizations. Yes, sometimes we need to have a meeting to set the stage for something else (like a project kickoff meeting). I don’t mean those.

So having granted the required caveats, I’ll say it again… I really don’t like meetings. I don’t like them because very often they’re not run effectively. Writing in Forbes Magazine (h/t Inc.com) coach / consultant Christine Comaford shares my meeting-aversion:

Too often, participants waste time with what could’ve been relayed via e-mail, social networks, or water-cooler conversation. Debating and sharing can be fruitful activities, but a meeting is the wrong setting. “The goal isn’t to solve detailed problems in the meeting,” notes Comaford. “It’s to assign responsibilities based on requests and promises made.”

Read the rest.

For a meeting to be truly effective, I’d recommend the following prescription:

1. Be prepared.

Read ahead slides / agenda sent to all principal attendees in enough time so that everyone has the opportunity to read and make their own notes.

2. The staff work is done before the attendees walk into the room.

Discussions and if necessary, arguments, happen well in advance. The meeting table is no place for groping for a way ahead, particularly when there are lots of subordinates in the room. It is a place for unemotionally laying out the pros and cons of an issue and making a fact-based decision. Staff work is for one-on-ones & and written communication.

3. Keep to the agenda.

It’s easy to get off the subject. Don’t. The best meetings are those that get to the point then get out of there. Meetings cost money, don’t let your organization bleed money by consuming unnecessary time.

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