Seven Meeting Mistakes

January 20, 2017 by  

Most people think that there are two main problems with meetings: absence of an agenda and a lack of leadership. But the main reason why meetings fail has nothing to do with these usual suspects. Meetings fail because of a workplace model that actively prevents people from having candid conversations. Too many people leave meetings frustrated about what happened and worse yet, what did not happen.

Mistake #1: Vague purpose
The lack of a clear purpose is the kiss of death for any meeting. If you are not clear about the purpose of the meeting you will be unable to select the appropriate people to attend, design the best agenda, select an appropriate process, or determine whether your meeting is successful. Everyone attending should know what is expected of him or her. Because each meeting has a unique purpose, each agenda item will be chosen to suit that purpose.

Mistake #2: Inviting the wrong people
Many meetings have the wrong people in attendance. This is usually because no one asked one critical question: Who really needs to be there? Those invited should include only those who are necessary to the conversation or the decision.

Ask yourself                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Could this person add a certain needed        expertise?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Does this person have a particular interest in the issue?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Will this person actively participate or contribute?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Is this person informed enough to contribute actively?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Will this person be directly impacted by the decision?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Once you have answered those questions you will be able to select the appropriate people for this particular meeting.

Mistake #3. Unequal participation
Good decision-making depends on the contributions of many ideas, facts, and opinions. However, people will not participate unless they feel comfortable doing so. This depends on their understanding that what they contribute is valuable to the discussion. If one person in the group is seen as more important than another, the conversation will be impacted negatively. People participate fully only when they can respond as equals. When you are in a subordinate position, you may distrust your own judgment and even sabotage those with more power. When you are in a superior position, you may become arrogant and close yourself off to new information. You may also quit listening and learning and become defensive and hostile if anyone challenges you.

Mistake #4: Commitment varies
For a meeting to be truly effective, each person must commit to the meeting and be accountable to the others at that meeting. In simple terms, this means showing up and participating. Ideally, committing means contributing in a constructive way and being candid and respectful. It includes listening to every person and speaking is a way that promotes, rather than discourages, conversation.

Mistake #5: Lack of shared ownership or leadership
Even if others help in creating an agenda, the control by a few prevents the others from sharing ownership and leadership in the meeting. As a result, most people wait for someone else to take charge. In successful meetings, ownership and leadership are shared and each person contributes to the structure and functioning of the meeting. Each attendee shares responsibility for creating a meeting that meets their needs and maintaining the focus of the meeting.

Mistake #6: Poor facilitation
The biggest mistake meetings chairs make is to forget that their role is to facilitate a dialogue.
The skill of facilitation is much like that of hosting an event. The facilitator’s responsibility is to ensure that the meeting functions properly and the participants participate in and benefit from the proceedings. The facilitator is essentially a process person.

Mistake #7: Lack of curiosity
Many attend meetings because they feel they must.  Others come simply to watch and stay out of the way. If each person came to the meeting with curiosity the gathering would be much more interesting and effective.   Curiosity as one of the fundamental principles of any good conversation. This curiosity is essentially an open mindset or the sense that you are seeing something for the very first time. It is a sense of wonder and rarely one of judgment.

As you can see, these 7 mistakes are driven a domination model – where one person takes charge and the others follow. The best way to improve your meetings is to adopt a process that promotes collaboration and conversation and stops domination from entering into the exchanges.  An open, honest and inclusive process can help by making the purpose crystal clear, inviting only those essential to the meeting, creating a more equal climate that encourages dialogue, asking each person to commit to the meeting, sharing ownership and leadership of the meeting and requesting that each person stay curious and involved.   Your workplace culture may not shift overnight, but at least you will have more effective and productive meetings which will result in desired outcomes for the group of attendees .

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