Meetings can be time-wasting and frustrating. Especially when the same problems re-surface, the usual characters dominate, and actions are rarely taken.
In my experience 70% of the meetings that take place in the public sector are probably ineffective. So why do people go? Why do they take part in something they know is often a waste of time?
1. Meetings contribute to organisational well-being
People need to feel connected and the best place that happens is face to face. We like seeing one another! In the age of the headphones, agile working and desk top lunches, there is a lack of face to face interaction.
Meetings are places where people see and talk to one another. Conversations take place. It is an opportunity to enjoy each others company. Meetings allow an organisation to focus on positive cultural behaviours. Therefore, take time to look after and care for your people. For example, make sure you have a comfortable room, that refreshments are provided, that Individuals are left undisturbed and privacy is respected. Then you are modelling a culture that respects peoples’ time and energy when they come together.
2. Meetings help joined up strategic thinking
A shared strategy needs a face to face approach. If you are leaders and you are leading a strategy and vision, you need to have time to sit down with your fellow leaders and make sure you are on target and actions are being implemented into effective results. How you do that without a meeting I don’t know.
3. Meetings encourage accountability
There’s no place to hide in a well-chaired meeting. You are more likely to take action if you know you are physically accountable to others. Take the following dialogue:
Chair: Hello Alan – how are you? We are all looking forward to the results of your actions! How did you get on?
Alan: Well…I didn’t get the time to do them in the end…..I got caught up with other things, and then it was the end of the financial year…er..
Chair: So you didn’t do any of your actions? Well that’s a pity, as the rest of this meeting is determined by the results of your actions….
Alan will be more motivated to complete his actions next time in order to avoid this awkward admission in a face to face meeting.
4. Meetings expose conflict
It is difficult to lie, in a meeting. Body language will communicate conflict as well as words.
If you are sensing discontent in your team, it is likely to surface at a meeting. Seeing your team around a table can give you extra information on their effectiveness and cohesiveness . For example, body language will indicate if someone is reluctantly agreeing to a plan or when two colleagues don’t like each other.
Without meetings, work can become individualistic, and functional. The benefits of positive face to face interaction will contribute to the wellbeing of an organisation and therefore its effectiveness.
Meetings are a microcosm of what happens in the wider workplace. Therefore use them well – they are a chance to model the principles and practices that you want to see work elsewhere.
For more information about how to make meetings really work and help your team or organisation exceed their expectations in terms of their efficiency – please contact me.
Good to hear from you. Reading about meeting it all ring so true. Very interesting read
Thank you Gail, I hope all is well with you!
With a job that is 90% meetings I found this really interesting. I really agree with the point about refreshments, there is something deep in our core that means we like to share time with each other over food and drink. Meeting new people is so much better face to face and the ability to read body language and emotions is critical to understanding what people are really telling us, words are a very small part of human communication. I often slip but always come back to the techniques that you have taught me and this can go a long way to tackle ineffectiveness. Hope you have a great trip, see you in the new year, Phil.
Thank you Phil for your comments – we are always well looked after in our meetings at Cornwall Council – and that’s thanks to you and the precedent you have set.