For better or for worse, collaboration requires meetings. And when meetings are insufferable, collaboration suffers. Think about how much time, energy and goodwill is squandered in meetings.
We participate in meetings where people:
Don’t know where the meeting will be held, or how to call in
Don’t show up on time
Don’t know what the meeting is about
Don’t know what decisions will be made during the meeting
Haven’t reviewed the necessary materials in advance
Haven’t completed their “action items” from the previous meeting
Don’t remember their action items from the previous meeting
Haven’t prepared to facilitate their portion of the meeting
Aren’t sure how to facilitate a meeting in a way that engages others
Don’t know how to participate effectively in the meeting
Don’t know how much time to spend on each agenda item
Aren’t sure how decisions will be made during the meeting
Aren’t sure whether or how to express their confusion
Don’t interact or speak up when questions are asked
Have their faces buried in their phones/tablets/laptops, so it’s unclear whether they’re paying attention
Fail to take notes or record the meeting
During meetings, while attempting to address a “shared problem”, people:
Aren’t sure or can’t agree on what the problem is
Can’t agree on whether the problem is actually a problem
Aren’t aware of who is affected by the problem
Start arguing about solutions to different problems
Aren’t sure whether the problem can be fixed
Become afraid that fixing the problem will create even bigger problems
Aren’t sure what it would look like, specifically, to fix the problem
Don’t know who would be affected by any given solution
Aren't sure how to navigate and resolve differences of opinion
Hide their true feelings in order to avoid conflict
Defer to the loudest or most powerful voices in the room
We conclude our meetings finding that people:
Don’t know what (if anything) was decided during the meeting
Don’t know what they are personally responsible for doing after the meeting
Duplicate efforts on some action items, while leaving other items unaddressed
Aren’t sure whether, when or who will facilitate a follow-up meeting
Feel frustrated or angry for wasting another hour of otherwise productive time
Arrive late to their next meeting.
If you can relate, you’re obviously not alone. These problems are so common that many people believe meetings are inherently a waste of time. But that’s not necessarily true. When meetings are run well, they’re not only productive, they’re actually enjoyable. Can you imagine that? Imagine leaving your meetings knowing that all the participants feel satisfied with their work, are clear about what comes next, and feel a deeper sense of connection with each other and belonging to the team. How much would that be worth to your company, and to you personally?
So it bears repeating... When meetings are insufferable, collaboration suffers. Let’s do something about that. It’s not rocket science. But it does require some training and practice. Are you ready to make a change?
Mark Voorsanger is a consultant, speaker and executive coach who has been leading and managing teams for more than 25 years. He is a member of the training team for the Collaborative Operating System, a powerful framework for teams and organizations that need to collaborate effectively.
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