15 Meeting Killers to Place on Your “Most Unwanted List”

“He called the meeting to…for…hell, I don’t know why he called the meeting. Maybe it was to hear himself speak. Maybe it was to remind himself that he was important or to remind us that he was the “leader” of the department. Maybe it was because it was just part of his weekly schedule. Maybe he just thought that this was part of his job, to pull everyone together and lead a weekly meeting…because that’s what leaders do. Hell, I don’t know why he called the meeting and no one else knew either. All we knew was that here we were once again; pulled away from our work, sitting in a room with no windows, regurgitating the same script that we endure every single week…”

Him: Great to see everyone. Let’s hear the status updates on each person’s projects and detail assignments. Let’s go around the room.

Us:

  • No update, same status as last week.
  • Nothing new to report.
  • Sent a report to the division HQ, waiting to hear back. Nothing new to report from me either.
  • The cost center placed controls on the scope of my project but I can handle it. Everything’s on schedule.
  • I was off on leave for the past few days. Had some personal business to take care of but all’s well on the home front.

Him: Great! Let me update you on some stuff coming down the pike regarding legislative and policy changes. (He went on for 30 minutes about ‘stuff’ that he could have emailed and didn’t directly pertain to us.)

Him: Questions?

Us: (silence)

Him: I think that its important for us to come together in person and online weekly. I’m glad you’re all willing to spend the time to give these updates. It’s our time to connect as a team.

Us: (silence)

Him: Great. So, let’s get back to work. Have a great day everybody. See you all next week.

Us: (silence)

  • When the most common refrain in a meeting is Silence, something is radically wrong with the meeting; especially because the very definition of the word “meeting” is a gathering of people for a particular purpose with the intent to conference, consult, organize, make decisions, see and greet one another, relate or entertain. (Merriam Webster Dictionary & MacMillan Dictionary). In the real-life meeting recording shown above there occurred no consulting, organizing, decision making, greeting, relationship building, or even entertaining. So why have the meeting? Because it has always been on the schedule? Because it is the preference of the ‘leader’? These types of meetings and the irrationality of them KILL motivation, morale, time management and any enthusiasm that otherwise could be generated by coming together for a larger purpose.

I believe that most managers, executives and leaders at all levels actually have good intentions when they schedule meetings. Meetings are, after all, not inherently harmful to a culture. In fact, meetings are good things. When done right and held for the right reasons… they facilitate relationship building and trust building, they inspire people and build morale and loyalty, they energize and excite people to do more and offer more ideas and insights, and they facilitate problem solving and decision making. They can do all of these things. But, if the meeting manager doesn’t know what he or she is doing, even with the best of intentions the meeting manager can inadvertently kill all of these things (e.g., motivation, ideas, problem solving, cooperative decision making, loyalty, etc.).

Here are 15 Meeting Killers to place on your “Most Unwanted List”.

  1. Calling a meeting for the sake of having a meeting
  2. Lecturing during the meeting instead of securing input and dialogue during a meeting
  3. Allowing a meeting to be hijacked by monopolizers, manipulators or mundane topics
  4. Allowing silence and disengagement by participants who could be sharing their skills, experience, expertise, insights and ideas
  5. Having no agenda, stated purpose or goals for the meeting
  6. Berating others during a meeting
  7. Not showing up for your own meeting, and then falsely believing that that decision is your prerogative
  8. Allowing people to work on other stuff during the meeting, insight or under the table
  9. Allowing distractions in the environment to draw attention away from the people within, and point of, the meeting
  10. Under-loading or over-loading an agenda so that what needs to take place in the meeting doesn’t or can’t take place
  11. Allowing bad behavior to occur or go unchecked during a meeting
  12. Holding a meeting at the wrong time or in the wrong place so that participation is limited or absent altogether
  13. No having the right people there, or making all people be there for the entire meeting when only part of the agenda applies to some of them
  14. Holding a meeting that lasts for several hours without brain-breaks every 45-60 minutes
  15. Not having the technology operational during, or tested prior to, a tele-video-onsite meeting

Each of these practices possess the ability to kill all of your good intentions because their impact, accidentally and inadvertently, creates disengagement and confusion, and leads people to detest all meetings. So, my friends, leaders at all levels, be on the look out for these killers within your meetings. Better yet, make plans to head them off at the pass.

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