The long yawns, vacant eyes, people looking at their smartphones under the table, lack of participation…all of these are signs your meeting isn’t going well. You’ve seen them before and you are not alone. Bad meetings are boring, unnecessary, and worst of all, unproductive.
Breaking down the main reasons people hate meetings allows you hone in on strategies for making meetings work:
Problem: People Protecting their turf (44.7%)
Solution: A good leader communicates the importance of collaboration between meeting members to work proactively towards solving the problem at hand. Here are a few pointers on how to help meeting members buy into collaboration:
- Avoid the group meeting ‘brainstorming session’ and get their brainstorming ideas ahead of time – this will get team members contributing to what will be a collaboration in the meeting itself while avoiding running off the rails.
- Set up your meeting from a Problem/Solution context and create an agenda that moves toward that goal.
- Communicate the importance of solving the problem at hand from the company-level
Problem: 1-2 People Dominate (38.3%)
Solution: Prevent anyone from monopolizing the conversation by interupting and shutting down the more dominate talkers. Here are a few pointers to help manage people tyring to hijack your meeting:
- Don’t be afraid to say directly “Thank for your input, but we need to get the whole team’s opinion.”
- Create a meeting ‘Parking Lot’ – a whitespace for jotting down ideas that are worth revisiting but you don’t have enough time to explore in the meeting.
- When in doubt, pull the teacher move: call out the team members that aren’t participating and ask for their input.
Problem: Defensiveness (34.6 %)
Solution: Stay on message. If you called the meeting, you are trying to solve a specific problem, whether it’s improving processes, increasing performance, developing new ideas, etc. It is only natural that some people will be defensive, but a good leader will defuse that attitude. Here are a few pointers to turn defensive people into proactive contributors:
- Make the meeting about the issue, not the person or people
- Avoid giving negative feedback in the group setting or allowing group members to give negative feedback to other members
- Determine the underlying fear of why someone gets defensive and provide solutions in a context that addresses their fear
Problem: Internal Politics (31.7%)
Solution: Don’t let it encroach on your meeting. Internal politics will vary from company to company and the problems above – protecting turf, monopolizing the meeting and defensiveness – all play a part in internal politics. Your job is prevent this from happening and keep everyone on task. Here are some pointers on preventing interal politics from encroaching on your meeting:
- Use data: Data is objective, politics are subjective. Despite what actual politicians do, it’s hard to politisize objective facts.
- Stick to your agenda and don’t let conflict derail you.
- Keep the meeting moving towards problem-solving, rather than problem-stating.
Solution: Conduct pre-meeting work to make sure team members are prepared as well. Here are a few pointers on ensuring everyone is prepared for your meeting:
- Send out the Problem/Solution context and agenda ahead of time to all members.
- Assign specific roles to meeting members with what actions they need to take in prepartion.
- Invite only essential people – before including someone on the meeting invite, ask yourself this question: “Can they be just as effective if the receive a summary of the meeting rather than attend?”
In addition to the above problems, many people interviewed for the survey stated time was a big factor in why people hate meetings. Most people said that meetings start late, end late and take too long. So, here are your bonus tips on time management for effective meetings:
- Hit the ground running – make sure you start on time and jump right into the problem.
- Use a timer – yes, a timer. Set how much time each point should take and move on to the next one once that time is up.
- Meeting Length: Some research suggests 15 minutes is the ideal meeting length. Others say that 45 minutes is best because it maximizes attention spans. Meeting in the middle, 30 minutes seems to offer the best of both – long enough to get stuff done, but short enough you don’t lose anyone along the way.
Employ these tips in your next meeting and see how things go. Have other tips on what works – or doesn’t work – in meetings? Please let us know in the comments section!