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At the weekend I purchased a little book entitled ‘The Worst-Case Scenario Pocket Guide: Meetings’ by David Borgenicht and Ben H. Winters. An amusing pocket guide on how to survive boring meetings, it offers some unique suggestions on how to stay awake during boring meetings, these include: poking yourself in the thigh with a pen, not going to the toilet (keeping your bladder full for that constant feeling of discomfort) and taking notes with your non-dominant hand.
Whilst these options would no doubt keep you awake, they do not address the underlying problems of why meetings are so widely loathed.
Patrick M. Lencioni, author of Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable suggests that there are two big reasons that people hate meetings. The first is that they are “boring” and the second is that they are “unproductive”. The good news is that both of these problems can be easily rectified. Try these 5 steps to eradicating boring meetings.
Mindset Change: Meetings are a good thing – Before you can begin to address the effectiveness of your meetings, there has to be a shift in mindset. Meetings are invaluable, they are a chance to bring together different minds, with differing opinions. It is in meetings that great ideas are born, vision and passion are shared, issues are keenly debated and exciting decisions are made.
If you’re still not convinced, then consider life without the meeting. There would be little or no opportunity for innovation, creativity and healthy debate. Decisions would always be made and enforced from top level down, valuable employees would become disengaged and would most certainly be operating a long way from their full potential.
Accountability – Once you are clear on the value that meetings hold, the first step towards increasing their effectiveness is to take responsibility. Boring meetings are the fault of the person running them. And boring meetings will produce ineffective decisions. Conversely, great meetings challenge existing methods. They inspire new ideas, giving a greater number of options and ultimately result in greater, better informed decisions. Additionally, accountability must extend to attendees. At the end of the meeting, summarise what’s been agreed and ensure everybody is clear about their own actions and commitments.
Be Clear on the Purpose of the Meeting – There are two common mistakes made when arranging meetings. The first is to try and squeeze too much into one meeting. The second is to use meetings as a way of communicating information that could be more effectively communicated in a different format.
A meeting should have a clear purpose and agenda, if a topic does not fit in with that agenda then move it and this includes issues that arise during the course of the meeting. Having the discipline and confidence to identify and shelve non-relevant topics will significantly boost your meeting’s effectiveness. Equally, meetings should not be used merely as a platform in which to present facts and figures, by definition they should be interactive.
Time and Location – This is a simple thing to get right, but one often overlooked. The location of your meeting should facilitate open discussion and brainstorming. Your people have the potential for the most amazing ideas but, they first need an environment in which such innovation is encouraged and then they need to feel comfortable sharing these ideas.
Allow enough time for the meeting. Do not be tempted to schedule a shorter meeting just to pacify attendees. Once people begin to see that your meetings are neither boring, nor a waste of time, they will actually look forward to attending.
Engage People – The above steps create a foundation on which productive, non-boring meetings can happen, but to guarantee truly outstanding meetings you need more than this; you need to gain commitment and involvement from the team.
As the organiser of the meeting, it is your responsibility to drive discussion and debate. Invite people to contribute, not only through words, but with your body language and careful staging of the meeting’s location.
Promote healthy conflict and encourage opposing ideas. A team’s strength lies in it’s ability to exploit it’s own natural resources; to realise its potential. It must be able to innovate, develop, consider, debate, argue, resolve and after all this, to collectively decide upon the best course of action.
So, instead of sitting through yet more unproductive, boring meetings, in which participants look disengaged, check their Blackberrys regularly (and perhaps are even stabbing themselves in the leg with a pen!), make a change and follow the 5 Steps outlined above.
For more information on how you can eradicate boring meetings in your organisation contact Mindstrong Ltd today.