Why business meetings are painful, boring and unproductive…

By , March 28, 2012 6:27 pm

“Bad meetings, and what they indicate and provoke in an organization, generate real human suffering in the form of anger, lethargy, and cynicism. An while this certainly has a profound impact on organizational life, it also impacts people’s self-esteem, their families, and their outlook on life.”

 

~ Patrick Lencioni, Author

 

Have you ever attended one of these?

“I could get my work done, if I didn’t have to go to so many pointless meetings!” ~ John, a coaching client. He went on to summarise that most of the meetings he attended were unfocused, lethargic and boring, but a necessity of business life.

I can remember attending many meetings in my corporate life that were frustrating and pointless. Yet I was told that had to endure them because it was part of my job.

I remember a low point once where ‘Fun’ was listed as an agenda item and we were actually forced to ‘enjoy’ a team game as part of a meeting. Have you ever pretended to have fun? – It’s counter-productive. If you ever get to this stage you need to step back and explore WHY you’re contemplating this as an agenda item in the first place. It might be because of some of the reasons below…

Why are meetings so painful and unproductive?

…Because they are! – Acceptance that part of the process of doing business involves the tedium of attending meetings. You have to go through the ritual of attending to get the job done. Many people believe that meetings are bad in every company so it’s just the way it works in business. Brace yourself and just get on with it! We’ve got used to hating them!

Lack of ownership – Participants attend with the mindset that it’s something that is done to them rather than taking RESPONSIBILITY for the role they play and how to get the best outcomes. Mediocrity and complacency sets in. You show up because you feel you have to. You’re a silent observer and the meeting becomes passionless and dull.

Little or no leadership – Ineffective meetings happen because of the approach and attitude of the people leading them. The leader models and influences the attitude and approach of those attending. Sometimes it becomes a forum to exercise the ego of the highest ranking person in the room. The focus is lost as individuals drift off-piste to satisfy their own agenda or because they’re bored! Participants aren’t sure of their role: should I be debating? Discussing? Brainstorming? Or listening?

Boring – If you had nothing else to do with your time, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to spend it in a dry, tedious un-engaging meeting with some people that you might not even like that much! Sitting and listening for long periods of time to uninspiring content is monotonous. Every one moans that it’s boring – but no one does anything about it. It’s a ritual to attend every week. People are scared to give an opinion or challenge – so they sit like nodding dogs. Poor decisions are made as a consequence. Awkward situations are avoided by staying quiet, nodding where appropriate and writing your weekly shopping list!

No structure – The regular staff meeting is a classic example of this. Weekly? Monthly? Where everyone gets together for an unfocused random discussion about everything! There’s little clarity about topics and there’s no context for discussion. Individuals literally check out.

Pressure and anxiety – Most people have loads of other things to do. Attending a bad meeting only amplifies the anxiety and pain. Focus on the meeting is lost and you start thinking about how you could use this wasted time. If it’s a conference call – you’re probably multi-tasking doing your emails at the same time! You’re not used to sitting still and doing just one thing at a time so it’s easy to get distracted.

Recognise any of these?

Harvard Business School a few years ago claimed that over 50% of meetings are a waste of time…

Here’s the thing…

It’s possible to make meetings compelling, engaging, interactive and productive. It starts with changing the mindset of those attending and involves a little re-thinking on how to manage them effectively. Here are some of the benefits: Better decisions, improved morale, shorter time away from your desk, better results and increased value.

Which meeting would you rather attend?

(More tips soon on how to make meetings engaging, interesting and productive)

 

 

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