Business meetings: turn-offs and pitfalls – by Frank Ofili36 views
Meetings can be both productive and unproductive. Some meetings may even be dysfunctional, depending on its regularity, content and quality. For many businesses, routine meetings can lack focus and a clear agenda and end up wasting time and boring people.
The last thing a meeting organizer wants is for their attendees to be sitting in a conference room wondering what the meeting is all about, why they were asked to attend, or what the end product would be. If a meeting does not have a defined agenda and concrete next steps, it is not going to interest anybody. And if your audience manage to attend such meetings, they are most likely going to be playing around with their phones, or engaging in other off-agenda asides while the meeting lasts. If you happen to be the convener of such meeting, then know that you have done a bad job of it. But meetings can be interesting, if you know what to avoid.
Here are some deadly sins to watch for in business meetings – and tips on how to avoid them:
- Meetings that become useless rituals: Companies frequently meet simply because it is time for their weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual meeting. Such meeting could be of sales, finance, operation, or some other such functional units. Meetings that are ritualistic instead of necessary are often boring, and attendees eventually get fed up and lose interest. Often you find them engaging themselves in other asides like flipping through magazines or taking snap shots, which instantly find their way into the employees’ social media pages.
How do you avoid this scenario? First, re-examine your routine. Do not have a meeting unless you can very specifically define why it is necessary and how it will advance the strategy of the organization, department or group. Also, create a specific agenda and send it out early enough for people to prepare.
- Meetings that are a one-way a monologue: Some people are simply bad meeting conveners. They often assume they know more than the attendees – a deadly mistake which often leads them to engage in a one-way conversation. They assume the position of lecturer. Communication becomes one way. A one-way speech is generally one of the least effective ways of teaching, informing or motivating people to action
It is often more productive to encourage your team to speak up, exchange ideas and comment on what they have heard. Allowing people to express themselves is one of the most effective ways of motivating them to action.
- Meetings with lax leadership: This is more related to virtual, or what you may call on-line meetings. In today’s virtual meetings, time is often wasted waiting for people to join. More time is also wasted getting stragglers up to speed on what they have missed. This pushes the people who joined the meeting on time with the likelihood of being drawn back, leaving them stressed out at the end of the meeting. If you are the convener of this kind of meeting, be sure that next time you call a meeting you are likely to get a near-hundred percent negative response.
The bottom-line is to be a leader who is organized, firm and time-conscious. Leave late comers to catch up on their own. Use tact, of course, but do not be eager to be too nice. If you are too nice, it allows too much nonsense to go on.
- Meetings that emphasize Setbacks instead of Strengths or Strategies. Nothing discourages me, personally, more than meetings where only past mistakes or set-backs are harped upon. I imagine it is the same with most people. It is of no use using a meeting to trade blames. If you are such a leader, next time you call a meeting, do not be surprised if no one turns up. If anyone does turn up at all, such person is most likely to make no contribution whatsoever. Bet me.
So, what is the way forward? Use the past mistakes as a platform for understanding and planning future actions. Do not use meetings as a forum to trade blame. Use meetings for strategies, for fine-tuning, for planning the way forward. The collective brain power in the room should be used to avoid mistakes going forward. As a leader you ought to know that you should take responsibility for whatever goes wrong.
- Meetings that disrupt Employees’ most Productive Hours: Many companies hold meetings in the mornings. In fact, I used to work in a company where we usually hold daily meetings in the morning. To be fair, there was logic to this arrangement, but over the years I have come to understand that employees concentrate more in the mornings and achieve much more. Based on this understanding, I did a memo to Management proposing a change to this arrangement so that there would be no more interrupting employees’ most productive hours.
So, what did we do? We started scheduling meetings one hour before closing time. We used our daily routine meetings to close each day’s business. It paid off.
- Meetings held in bland Environment: At most meetings, people focus their gaze on the leader at the head of the table. Why? Because there is little else to look at. Often people do not realize that the environment in which a meeting is held is just as important as the meeting itself. A drab, bland meeting venue does little to stimulate discussion and creative ideas.
So, what is the solution? Surprise your team members by taking them to an unfamiliar environment, e.g. a park, an eatery, a garden or even a beach. This encourages team-bonding. Have you ever wondered why some companies hold their AGMs in five-star hotels? When you are not eye-to-eye, you have the guts to say certain things, and when in an unfamiliar environment, you look at the world differently, which stimulates fresh ideas.
- Too Formal and Rigid Meetings: Few meeting leaders have a sense of humour. The result is a room full of bored, restless attendees. An uninspiring meeting chairman evokes absent-mindedness and a de-motivating feeling. This could affect the outcome of a meeting.
Tip: Break up meetings with jokes, an engaging story, or even music. There is no reason not to inject a bit of levity in a meeting to gain attention, disarm negativity and generate enthusiasm. Manchester United coach, Jose Mourinho uses this approach often.
So, what is your approach to meetings as a leader? Whatever it is be sure it evokes enthusiasm in the attendees. There is nothing more productive than an enthusiastic and committed team members.