“Death by Meeting”

Meetings  are often a painful necessity, but they are a necessity none the less. What makes a “good” meeting?

The saying “Death by meeting” is common enough. Patrick Lencioni authored a book with that title in 2004, but I remember it as being in common use long before that. It describes the pain, boredom and resentment of those who have to sit through unproductive or unnecessary meetings.

Bad meetingBad meetings steal time from more important activities. They are expensive. Take a half dozen $60,000 managers. Add in the cost of their benefits and infrastructure, Put them in a room together for ninety minutes, and you’ve spent between $400 and $500. Coordinate schedules, prepare an agenda, circulate meeting notes, post the action items on the company intranet, and you’ve easily spent $1,000. That’s before any action is taken.

Of course, there is another side to meetings. About 85% of our face-to-face communication involves non-verbal signals. Body language and facial expressions greatly facilitate any discussion process. In a good meeting, team members bond through personal contact. Differences in opinion can find middle ground in minutes, rather than via a week’s worth of emails. Consensus on a course of action allows everyone to leave the room with a clear understanding of group expectations, their individual role, and the next step in the process.

From a morning “huddle” to a three-day strategic retreat, meetings have a purpose and a place in every organization. We are social animals. Humans are the only primate with white eyeballs. Scientists believe that other primates evolved to hide the direction of their gaze, while humans’ evolutionary direction was to emphasize who we are looking at for better communication.

Meetings are a necessity. The challenge is to avoid making them an unpleasant necessity.

Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss types of meetings and ideas for making them more effective. I would love to include your ideas and experiences. Please comment, or contact me using the link in the sidebar.

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