Some companies seem to have successful meetings the way they were intended: People collaborate, are able to develop group-generated solutions to problems and walk away feeling empowered, with a clear understanding of their next action steps.
Other times, meetings are mind-numbingly boring. Even if the information conveyed in the meeting is critical, it seems that the team leaves the meeting feeling relief, but only because the thing is over. Some team members might leave feeling as if they would have gotten more out of a single-sentence email, and they could have saved an hour.
The worst kind of meetings, though, may be the ones that shouldn’t have ever happened. These are the meetings where nothing gets done, and no value is added to any of the attendees. They leave the room feeling frustrated, unheard, uncared-for, and distinctly less motivated than before the meeting started.
As much as we may wish otherwise, meetings are still a necessity in the business world. So what can we do make our meetings actionable, informative, brief and empowering? We can stop doing these seven things — right now.
Stop interrupting people. Right now. Interruption may seem like the only way to get your really important idea across without forgetting it or context being lost, but even if that’s true, don’t just speak over whoever is already talking.
Think about how many times you’ve been in a meeting, and someone was talking, and someone else just couldn’t resist interjecting. It is far more common than we give credit for, despite how uncivilized it seems when we’re away from the table.
Interruption has a host of negative outcomes. It disempowers the speaker and subtly damages whatever credence their idea may have had. Interruption often also makes the interrupter either say their piece more forcefully (hoping to get their point across), which can come off as dismissive or angry, or makes them rush, which very few people can do well, so that can discredit the interrupter’s comment. Worse, interruption is catching. If it’s part of your company culture, nip it now.
Instead of interrupting, encourage attendees to take notes, and pause between speakers to make space for comments, ideas or clarifying questions. This empowers each attendee equally, and makes space for quieter members who cannot or will not fight for the right to speak.
Stop starting late. Remember that meetings are usually paid. The more people you have in the room, the more expensive it is for the company. So when that meeting “only lasts an hour” but there are five people in the room, it costs five times what you think it does on first blush. Start on time, save money, and bonus: it’s less irritating.
3. NO RESULTS
Don’t leave meetings without results. If you hold a meeting, and one of your goals is not to create action items, you’ve just sent the message that the meeting is a waste of time. This isn’t good for your team members, and it’s definitely not good for the bottom line.
4. NO AGENDA
While we’re on the subject, stop holding meetings without agendas. Agendas can be as simple and straightforward as can be, or you can get more complex with subcategories and action steps. The important part here is that every attendee knows what the meeting is about, has had time to think about the content of the meeting, and has ideally also spent some time thinking about questions they want to ask or input they have for each item.