Meetings are stupid. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. They’re most often used by weak managers as an opportunity to waste time and make themselves seem important. They’re typically longer than they need to be, offer very little in the way of an actionable plan and in general, could be accomplished with a simple email. So why do people have meeting? It’s a lot like asking someone why they’re a fisherman or a farmer. Well, my father was a farmer, and his father was a farmer, and his father was a farmer. And so on. And it’s the same with meetings. My boss had meetings because his boss had meetings because his boss had meetings. And so on. But somewhere along the line you have to stop and ask yourself; why in the hell are we having all these meetings?
Let me be clear. Meetings are not the enemy. Meetings CAN be productive. They CAN be enlightening. They CAN be interesting. But MOSTLY they’re a big, stupid waste of time. Recently, I was in a meeting that WASN’T a big stupid waste of time and I wanted to talk about the four things that made that meeting NOT be a big, stupid waste of time.
1. New Information to Invested Parties
This particular meeting was the first in a series of monthly meetings at a growing company. New staff members and rapid growth mean that it’s important to get everyone on the same page. And this is what meetings are good for. When you have new, important information to share with an invested group, it’s probably a good time for a meeting. I’ve been to meetings that covered new, important information that was shared with a group that was in no way invested and I’ve been in on meetings where very invested individuals shared incredibly irrelevant information. But this meeting was important. The staff were provided with information that was relevant to them in an appropriate setting.
2. Totally Open Floor
There’s nothing worse than being a meeting where no one is allowed to say anything. You’ve been in this meeting. I know you have. “Let’s stick to the agenda. Maybe we should talk about that in private. This isn’t really the time for that. We’ve got a schedule to keep.” 151 reasons not to actually have a conversation. For a too many managers, it’s not a “meeting of the minds” it’s an opportunity for them to talk at you. When you open up the floor so that people can contribute every step of the way, people will respect your time and your agenda and they’ll ask relevant questions because you’ve made them a part of the conversation.
3. Check your Ego
It’s a pleasure to be a part of a team where the bosses (who in this case happen to be the owners) aren’t so enamored with themselves that the fail to recognize how important the rest of the team. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading the meeting or if you have things you need to cover. Understand that there’s almost always someone who has something more important to say than you do. And let them say it.
4. Check In or Check Out
I’ve actually never been a part of meeting where the organizers or the facilitators actually seemed to have any interest in what everyone thought of the meeting. Sure, there’s the perfunctory “does everyone understand, are we good, does anyone have any questions” but I’m not talking about these surface questions. I’m talking about a legitimate and honest assessment of the effectiveness and enjoyment of a meeting. If you don’t check in with your team to see whether or not they got something from your meeting, I can assure you, they’ve checked out.
As I’ve said over and over again, I’m not a fan of meetings. I think they’re a waste of time and they’re a stagnant reminder of the failure of the accepted norm of a how a company should operate. But there are times and situations where bringing the team together can be useful. During those times, make sure that you pay attention to these four ways that you can actually achieve something through a meeting.