One of the things that leaders do a lot of is to hold meetings. Terrible meetings. Miserable meetings. Boooooring meetings. Meetings that could be held up as being in violation of portions of the Geneva Convention. Let’s face it, most meetings being held today, and those thousands more that will be held in the next hour, and every hour thereafter, will probably be terrible! They will be as boring as watching paint dry and be just about as valuable to your time.
Why are so many meeting held that are so unproductive, uninspiring, or just a lame waste of valuable time?
The answer has to do with leadership. It is because most meetings aren’t being led effectively. Your average leader doesn’t think that they need help running a routine meeting. Right? After all, we’ve all been to hundreds of meetings. “It’s no big thing to hold a stupid meeting.” Is it?
No, it isn’t. You are absolutely correct. It’s easy to hold a “Stupid” meeting. That’s usually the problem. Unfortunately, that’s the way most of them turn out. And it’s because few of us see the importance of a definable “meeting process.” After all, why should we be burdened with process when we can more easily simply focus on action. Actions that make us feel like we are busy and like we are really producing something. Our attitudes tend to be “Ready,… Fire,… Aim” and we hope things work out for the best. We fool ourselves often times by exclusively thinking that “We’re professionals; we know how to get things done here! Why all the planning rules?”
That’s absolutely correct. We are great at getting things done. We are masters at producing. Where we need a little help, though, is on “how” we get things done. We need help with the people processes.
Each and everyone one of us has sat through boring, non-productive, out of focus, “I’m-wasting-my-time-here” types of meetings. Sometimes we’re leading these meetings. And sometimes we are the poor souls sitting through them hoping to God that they’ll end soon before we die of frustration!
Get On Board: Random Acts of Leadership
We need a remedy from this parasite called stupid meetings. We need to decree that things must change. So, with this, I am calling on each and every one of you, no matter how high or low you are on the totem pole, to begin a personal campaign I’m calling, “Random Acts of Leadership.”
As a devotee of this movement, you are directed to begin asking questions about the meetings you’re in, whether leading or participating. Questions that will invigorate and will empower you and your peers. Let’s do this!
Oh Brave Ones, here is your assignment, should you have enough courage to endeavor:
- You will begin to see to it that a clear agenda is presented at the meeting. If it isn’t, request that one be developed either in the moment or, ask politely that the meeting disband and reconvene at a later time until one is prepared. This takes big courage.
- If a meeting begins among strangers without any personal introductions or simple acts of relating, you will speak out and suggest spending a couple minutes to go around the room and have people share something about themselves. After all, do you want to do business with total strangers when you don’t have to? This one also takes a bold approach.
- If someone is hogging the air time, you will speak up and thank them for their great input and suggest that others be heard from too. This one is fun!
- Long before you’ve been meeting for three hours straight without a break, with your eyeballs floating somewhere in your forehead, you’ll request a short recess to accommodate personal needs and to just stretch and rejuvenate. Everybody can appreciate a request for a bio-break when one is desperately needed.
- When the energy is so heavy in the room you feel like you’re smothering, you will say something funny to make people laugh. The fog will lift, things will start moving again. You will risk being the “fool.” People will thank you later. For me, this is my favorite thing to do. For many, this is their most difficult.
- When someone suggests a valid action during the meeting without assigning a responsible party and completion date, you will jump in and suggest that it be assigned, without feeling obligated to take it on yourself. This one is sneaked in easily by anyone with just a little amount of courage.
- Trust your intuition. When something feels “off,” say so. You don’t have to have all the answers. Just know that your intuition never lies and if you feel something, others may feel the same thing as well. Your courage will inspire others to speak. The collective unspoken, given voice, will bring previously undiscovered wisdom, knowledge, and energy into the room. Great things may happen.
Can you handle that? That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? A little courage can go a long way!
That’s it. You’ve got your marching orders. You can do this! I have faith in you. Now go forth and boldly go where no average meeting leader or participant has gone before. Into the mysterious and powerful universe of group synergy, where there’s a surprise around every corner. Where magic happens! Bless you my fellow change-meisters.
Join this campaign today. Be bold. Take immediate control of your time. You don’t have all that much. Don’t waste it! I’d love to hear what happens for you.
For advanced leaders, and particularly for meeting participants or leaders who want to empower their team in meetings, check out my handbook entitled This Meeting Sux: 12 Acts of Courage to Change Meetings for Good.
Steve Davis is Director at Facilitator U.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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