Most of us hate to go to meetings and the word only brings shivers to our body. Yet, every week people everywhere collectively spend hundreds of thousands of hours sitting in various staff meetings. And let’s face it, sometimes they seem to drag on a bit and we end up just ‘waiting’ for them to finish. I myself have also had the dubious “pleasure” of sitting through various boring meetings.
Some compare team meetings to a Sunday family lunch, an opportunity for ‘the family’ to come together, talk about the week gone and what lies ahead, share opinions and ideas and generally take time out from the day-to-day for some good old social conversation. However, just like family mealtimes, team meetings can become stale and boring after a while. So how can we make team meetings a time for exploration, creativity, interaction and relationship building? Read on and discover how you can turn boring meetings into a success.
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Why do we hate meetings?
1. The meeting could have been done faster in writing
Meetings are great for discussions. If you are having a debate and comparing perspectives, talking through it is incredibly valuable. On the other hand, if you are just sharing status updates, it’s always better to do it in writing outside a meeting.
2. You have nothing to contribute to the meeting
Adding extra people to a meeting who are sitting there and don’t have the insight or relevance to actively contribute is a drain on everyone. The only people in the meeting should be the ones who have a stake or true insight on the topic being discussed.
3. One person is talking too much
Even if the topic of the meeting is relevant for you, you probably can’t stand meetings when one person dominates the conversation. This hinders the ability to have a real discussion, and turns everyone else off.
4. The meeting is not results oriented
Meetings should have a clearly defined goal and expected outcome. Meetings just to talk about something but not draw conclusions are a waste of time. For example, if you are meeting to decide the ideal date for an upcoming event you are hosting, the meeting should have only the stakeholders connected to the event, you should discuss the pros and cons of different dates, and walk out the door with a date selected and agreed to by everyone.
5. The meeting runs over time
Meetings that extend past their allotted time are never good. It’s disrespectful to everyone’s schedule to not stick to the scheduled start and end time. The default meeting time should be 60 minutes, and it should be rare to extend beyond it. Keep meetings short and to the point.
So what to do about it?
Meetings are often seen the same as paying taxes: it may be good for something, but it is hardly fun for anyone. And just like with taxes, we can’t make it more fun for you, but perhaps more convenient and less stressful. Here is some guidance and with these rules of conduct you make meetings more effective, faster and less annoying. Hand them out, hang them up, or review them before a meeting.
1. The initiator must clearly state the purpose of the meeting.
If the goal is not clear, you may (and must!) be informed of this at any time. Does the goal not become sufficiently clear even after asking? Get up and go, as it would be a waste of time.
2. A meeting must have an end time in addition to a start time
Preferably with the agreement that people do not continue for another minute – no exceptions. A clock in sight works wonders: being concise becomes a common responsibility. A meeting without an end time is an open invitation to keep going on endlessly.
3. There is only one designated person to lead the meeting:
Usually it is the boss, but should also be the strictest person in the group.
4. Agree that points may only be made once.
The speaker will ensure that the point is highlighted as clearly and briefly as possible. “I want to come back to …” should not be allowed. This may seem trivial, but may save a lot of time if followed to the letter.
5. Being distracted by a telephone is annoying, but sometimes unavoidable.
Repeating a point because you didn’t get it because of the distraction is undesirable. Taking others along in the distraction is simply not done. Better yet, I would say that all phones should be banned from a meeting
6. Other meeting pointers who can be punished with a yellow or red card:
“It may be a crazy idea, but …” “Maybe someone has already said it, but …”. “How are we going to put this into practice?” All of these will set the meeting back, cost time and are of no added value anyway.
Are you the one who takes the initiative for a meeting that nobody wants? A treat does wonders. Love goes through the stomach, even during meetings. This should not become the rule though, as people would be expecting it every time.
8. Change locations.
First of all, break the monotony of repetition by occasionally switching the location to somewhere different, ideally somewhere completely different like at a local café or in another part of your organization where the sights, sounds, smells (!) and stimuli are different. Not every week, just every now and again.
9. Have a thought board.
Both before, during and after your meetings, have a ‘place’ where team members can record ideas, topics and issues they’d like to discuss. Ideally, make it visible and creative, like a white board in the office or a graffiti space. Make it come alive, like a communal collaboration space and just use the physical team meeting as a time to reflect on what’s been raised.
10. Any Ideas?
Set time aside for problem solving and innovation. Have a ‘problem of the week’ you want to solve in your team meeting. Use the time for a mini-idealization session like a brainstorm or creative exercise. Again, set the rules and use the idea time to build your team’s creative capability. Over time, you’ll find you’ll start to get really good at positive problem solving.
11. Be positive.
Of course, just like mealtimes, team meetings should be a time of recognition, praise and encouragement. Ask every member of the team to say what’s made them happy at work this last week/month. Allow them to explain why they felt good about something they did or something that happened. Inject some belief and spirit into the team by focusing on what’s gone well.
What if it does not work for you?
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