I like to work. It’s not working that I don’t like and the biggest reason why I sometimes question the quality of my work life is meetings. Yes. Hate them. Most of them, anyway. I participate in a LOT of meetings – in person, by phone, all day meetings, staff meetings, project meetings – you name it. In fact, because I’m a number’s geek, I’ve calculated it out and I’ve attended approximately 12,000 hours of meetings in the past 10 years. I’m including only meetings where the number of attendees was more than three. Three and under, I figure, is really just a discussion. Here are, in no particular order, the top 10 reasons I hate meetings:
1. Did you know some people talk just to be heard? They have nothing of value to say but they want to be noticed. These are the same kids you went to school with who asked a really meaningless question that required a long answer by the teacher just before the bell was going to ring. They graduate, join the work force, and behave the same way in meetings.
2. Your other work does not stop while you’re in a meeting. In fact, you usually pick up assignments. Then you have to figure out how to squeeze them in the rest of your schedule that’s already packed with – you guessed it – meetings.
3. Often, you’re required to attend a meeting only so the person who arranged the meeting can cover their own tail. You’re not really needed but they don’t want to be accused down the road of not inviting some person or other so EVERYONE gets to go.
4. Meetings are often just show and tell and not brainstorming sessions, not strategy setting sessions, not work sessions. “Here’s 50 pieces of paper we’re going to read through to tell you what I’m doing. I don’t really want your input because I’ve already done what I’m going to do so it’s too late for you to influence my plan now.”
5. It’s inhumane to make people sit for 8 hours in meetings. Bringing in lunch so we can keep at it doesn’t really make it better.
6. Calling a meeting to tell someone what you’ve already done is simply bragging. I have better things to do than stroke egos.
7. What kind of a manager – a leader of people – can one be if one comes to work, shuts their door, and gets on an endless string of conference calls? Too many meetings can cause a manager to lose connection with the team they lead.
8. Wow, all of this cool technology today and I’m still flying across the country to pick up reams of wasted paper I won’t refer to again just so I can fly them back home with me to dump them in the shredder.
9. Not everyone thinks the same way. Some people think out loud and in the moment. Others think quietly and need time to ponder the material. Quiet thinkers suffer in meetings because they’re best ideas will likely come after the meeting is over when it might be too late to make a difference.
10. Towards the end of an all day meeting, people get punchy. They’re worn out. This is about the time the serious decisions have to be made. Exactly the time when people will make any decision just to end the meeting.
Sound familiar? Then let’s fix the issue:
If you think a particular meeting should not be held, suggest an alternate way of covering the meeting topic.
Get feedback from potential attendees as to whether or not they think they should attend.
Make meetings productive by planning objectives that need to be resolved by the end of the meeting.
Make meetings actionable – about topics in which you need feedback, ideas, or solutions. Make them lively and interesting. If you have meetings where one person talks and the others listen, that’s not a meeting. That’s a “listening”.
Get the material out in advance so those quiet thinkers can think.
Try out new technology to see if you can reduce travel expense.
Get feedback at the end of your meeting to find out if attendees felt the meeting was productive. Ask for ideas on how to improve future meetings.
If you’re the meeting leader, it’s not your job to MAKE people participate in meetings – it’s your job to make people WANT to participate in meetings.
Phew, there’s my 2 cents on the matter. Gotta run – time for another meeting.