Does the notion of yet another endless Monday morning, untimed, no-agenda meeting with your team, group or department make you shudder? It should. Talk to any executive or corporate team member and you will likely hear about five meeting sins that come up again and again. If you want your team to tune in, these meeting sins should be avoided at all costs!
#1: Hosting meetings as a matter of routine
The senior staff in the West Wing of the White House meet every single morning. The point of the meeting is to set up the day, go over anything that happened overnight and proactively deal with items on the President’s schedule that could cause issues throughout the day. Makes sense, right?
The staff of the design team for a small IT firm meets every Monday morning. Because it’s Monday morning. That doesn’t make sense at all.
Meeting ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done things’ is not an effective use of time. It’s actually worse than that: it’s a waste of time. If an issue can be easily dealt with in a group email, it should be.
#2: Turning a meeting into a lecture
The surest way to make sure that people aren’t hearing what you’re saying is by talking AT them. This has been a known flaw in marketing for years, yet for some reason, many managers and team leaders still engage with their teams this way.
If the meeting does not encourage feedback, it’s not a two-way conversation; it’s a lecture. By creating safe environments that do not engage in judgment or criticism, you can have meetings where people feel able, and willing, to participate. This has to come from the people in the room with power, as they can exhibit a standard of leadership that will allow for open and frank debate.
#3: Meeting agendas that don’t move a project forward
If there is no goal, there will be no result. If all you do in each and every meeting is go over material that should have been sent in an earlier email or worse, discuss what happened at the last meeting, you aren’t moving forward.
Everyone should be ‘up to speed’ on what the meeting is about and what is going to be expected of each attendee, whether that’s presenting some new information or contributing ideas to move a project forward. The agenda needs to reflect this clearly and everyone should leave the meeting feeling as though something was accomplished.
#4: Hosting a meeting in a negative environment
It’s a nice idea to think that team meetings can take place in a cafe, where everyone can relax and enjoy themselves a little, but it’s probably not the best place to discuss the company’s upcoming IPO.
Wherever you host a meeting, it should be appropriate for the number of people, the needs of the attendees (equipment for presentations, for example) and in general, not be distracting or unpleasant. In fact, it should be a neutral environment so that attendees can do what it is they came to do effectively.
A negative environment doesn’t just deal with the physical. It’s important that everyone who is attending be willing to be there. If attendees feel negatively towards the meeting or someone attending, these issues need to be cleared up before moving forward, or risk creating a toxic, non-interactive environment.
#5: Setting up meetings with no clear leadership
How can you tell when the chair of the meeting is not effective? There is no agenda, the meeting runs long and time is wasted dealing with latecomers. If people are sitting in a room and they don’t know exactly why they are there, what the goals are and how long they will be there, the failure is with the meeting chair, or lack of one.
Leadership is essential in chairing meetings and it requires someone who is strong enough to ensure that people show up on time, who knows not to waste everyone else’s time by catching up the late birds, and who can create and stick to an agenda.
Skip these five sins and your meetings will be faster, smoother, and more productive than ever before.