Meetings are difficult at the best of times.
There are few meetings where the participants would not rather be doing something (anything!) else and whose minds are not wandering on to more exciting things.
Meetings are typically longer than they need to be, littered with irrelevant and tangential conversation, high in self-importance, and low on productivity.
Nevertheless, they are a necessary part of cooperative labor.
Just as a ship requires rudder, so to successful businesses need the inescapable concept of a hierarchy, and those hierarchies require cooperation and synergy in order to function.
And so, it should not surprise us to learn that inefficient meetings contribute to lower productivity and in poor collaboration.
If you want to maintain a healthy and collaborative environment for a meeting, here are the seven deadly sins you’ll need to overcome.
Reality Check: There will always be someone in the room more competent than you.
Irritation: There will also be someone in the room who suspects they’re more important than you.
If you had pneumonia, this person has had double pneumonia.
If you have written a 2,000-word paper on why content marketing matters, there will be someone else in the room who has written a 3,000-word paper on the same subject – and they’ll make sure you know about it.
Kind of person I have in mind is the kind of person who is always looking to outdo someone else in the room.
This search for significance, when verbalized, is so destructive to collaboration.
Tell such a person that you are in 10 acres and they will tell you about the time they owned 20.
Mention that you’ve been turning up at 7:30 each morning to get your work done, and this person will no doubt want you – and everyone else in the room – that they have been known to turn up at 6 o’clock.
Overcoming this culture in a meeting is not something you can do with a hint or sudden suggestions.
People need to be told – whether directly or indirectly, and in the midst of the group so as not to alienate any one member, – that the point of the meeting is not for them to grandstand and show for their excellence.
Dishing out a few examples like the one I have given above is usually enough to make most sycophants pause, even if it’s only for a moment.
And, at that moment, the rest of us have an opportunity to contribute without fear of being doused in the watery words of another’s one-upmanship.
2. Smartphone Addiction
Is it OK for people to be tapping away on their smartphones during a meeting?
My answer is no.
It’s usually disruptive and often downright disrespectful.
I will make a couple exceptions.
- If someone in the meeting requests a piece of information that could be easily gathered on the spot by using the device.
- If people are using their device as a calendar and organizing events that are relevant to the agenda.
Beyond that, smartphones, tablets, and laptops should be put away.
This constant need to busy ourselves with trivialities or worse still, engage in conversations via the phone when we’re being spoken to directly in a meeting, is counterproductive.
It’s rude, it’s annoying, and the best way to deal with it is via a direct conversation with everyone in the room
Rule #1: When we meet we put our phones down, and we only pick them up for the sake of the agenda.
3. Off-Topic Conversation
Few things are more painful in a meeting then redundant or irrelevant conversation.
I’m talking about the kind of meeting where discussion about administrative budgets is railroaded by someone who wants to talk about the cost of the canteen lunch at their kid’s school.
This self-important desire to be at the center of every conversation is a huge weakness in otherwise productive meetings.
From a survey of senior managers in a range of industries in the United States:
It’s no wonder that so many employees, especially those in senior management, find meetings to be an unproductive and miserable experience.
You’re talking about ways to measure client-based outcomes and in a bizarre twist of reality, this triggers someone in the room to start talking about the time they fell off their bike.
Want to have a fruitful meeting? Cut the storytelling down to only that which illustrates the point at hand.
4. Lack of Oxygen
Just as important as the conversation and culture are the physical environments where the meetings are held.
How many have sat in stuffy, windowless offices yawning through long speeches and wishing they were somewhere else?
The physical nature of the workplace has a real impact on staff job satisfaction and retention.
People need air to breathe in order to think. They need some visual distance to dream and plan.
Lack of oxygen and a lack of light are not conducive to healthy meeting practices or positive and engaging outcomes for workers.
If you don’t want your stuff to wither like a hothouse flower give them air, light, and water.
5. Narcissistic Interjection
Some people cannot help but continuously interrupt the thoughts of others.
We have a rule in my house – one which I hope my kids will cultivate throughout their lives.
That rule is: Don’t be the person in the center of any room unless it’s absolutely necessary, and try and be the last person to speak.
But you get these people, lacking self-control, who have to interject.
It’s not that they want to respond to every statement or question. These people don’t even let you finish. They are interjecting to either finish your sentence or correct it or steer the conversation to something of greater interest to themselves.
This kind of self-absorbed narcissism is never appreciated.
It is rarely helpful and tends only to exhaust for the rest of us who have to endure your constant interruptions to our thoughts and our speech.
Whether it’s true impatience or self-absorption really doesn’t matter.
The effect is entirely negative full stop it undermines.
The creative expression of others and treat the thoughts and ideas of others as unimportant.
You know who you are. You couldn’t turn up in time to save yourself.
Because your mind resembles the sock drawer of Krusty the Clown.
As my mother used to say, “Unpunctuality is the sign of a disordered mind.”
Many of these late-comers add insult to injury by also being excuse-makers.
The bus, the alarm, the flat, the kid.
There is something ugly about making excuses in order to justify yourself.
How about a simple apology.
You were late.
Apologize, get over it, and get on with it.
Don’t hold up our meeting with your long-winded explanations and self-justifications on why you can’t keep a schedule.
Ah, the pessimist. It doesn’t matter who had the idea or how suitable it is for the occasion; the pessimist will always see the downside and aim to bring everybody else down with him.
Playful: “I thought we could have a hangi for the staff Christmas party.”
Painful: “Hmm, yes but we must consider the hygiene implications of sticking our beef in the dirt.”
Smiler: “I think some plants in the office might improve the ambiance.”
Sour: “Well I’m not watering them. Who’s going to water them? These ideas always end up in the compost.”
Happy: “I thought that now might be a good time to audit our marketing budget, and look for ways we could increase our marketing efficiency.”
Hung-up: “We’re all gonna die.”
Nothing brings down the tone or enthusiasm of a meeting quite like the pessimist.
Sure, there needs to be a series of checks and balances, I understand that. But these miserable folk and not only down on themselves and counterproductive they tend to reduce the productivity of everybody else around them.
Poor meeting practices and sub-par meeting cultures like the ones outlined above are detrimental to creativity and innovation.
They tend to inhibit collaboration and foster resentment within the company structure.
Knowing this and identifying the roadblocks to effective meetings is half the battle won.
The other half of the battle is getting everyone to ditch their self-important agenda in favor creating a positive and productive work environment for everyone involved.
More Agency Resources:
- Want Shorter, More Productive Meetings? Do These 11 Things
- How to Manage a Great SEO Team: 11 Proven Tips
- 25 Warning Signs That You’re Dealing with a Client from Hell
Featured Image and In-post Photos: Created by David Trounce using Pixabay, Pexels CC0 License, Wiki Commons and Canva, April 2018.