Ever been to a meeting and not really known what it has achieved – or have you ever been to a meeting to talk about going to another meeting? These incidents are common and so what is it that makes a meeting a ‘fail’?
Grumbling about meetings for the sake of meetings is something of an art-form in business. Meetings are necessary though. As any manager will know – without a meeting all hell can break loose with miscommunications, undefined goals and missed deadlines. So why is it that so many meetings are seen as a complete waste of time by those who begrudgingly attend them?
One of the main reasons must be a lack of understanding about what the meeting is about in the first place and what it intends to achieve. If you are thinking of holding a meeting make sure you have a clear agenda, give it purpose and share this in advance to all those who are attending. Advanced planning is important or people will be surprised, underprepared or will simply not contribute. This last point is critical for many – if they cannot contribute meaningfully to a meeting it can diminish in importance in their perception – to the point they wonder why they are there and why the meeting points could not have been communicated by email or some other, more efficient way.
Poor time management can be a key weakness in meetings. If everyone attending is ‘snowed under’ with other work they have to do, only to be side-tracked into a long meeting, they will become understandably frustrated. Make sure the length of the meeting is understood and schedule it at a time when people will still be able to meet their own objectives. Time taken away from staff or other managers can cost the company – time really can mean money – so plan meetings efficiently.
Fighting in the board room
Conflict between team members can be inevitable. It is therefore crucial to control behaviour, to not let conflict get out of control and arguments to mushroom into outbursts or insults. Honest and at times robust debate is important if people are expected to share their opinions but be sure it is understood that there must be a polite, professional way to engage in the dialogue. This leads to the issue of having to achieve consensus – no one needs to waste time in chaotic disagreement. Set out the path to a decision that can be understood by all.
Sub meetings often emerge during the course of a meeting and they can disrupt the whole purpose of why you are all there. Don’t lose direction in the meeting this is when attendees loose motivation and become despondent. Make sure the relevance and purpose of the meeting is communicated throughout.
Finally, don’t be afraid of fun. People are social creatures, allow them to laugh, get creative and move about, you might be surprised at the results.