Greg Owen-Boger - Sep 20, 2016

Is it Time to Wrangle Your Team’s Life-sucking Meetings?

Over the weekend I was having coffee on the deck with our friends, Paul and Olive. We were discussing the week ahead.

“I have nothing but meetings lined up next week,” Paul said. “I hate meetings. People show up late. Nothing ever gets done. Decisions aren’t made. And no one does what they’re supposed to do. And all of that just means that we’re going to have the same meetings next week and the week after that. It never ends.”

Paul’s not alone. Meetings can suck the life right out of you.

I was in a separate conversation not too long ago with a client. Because of some recent remote hiring, they were laying the framework for moving almost exclusively to virtual team meetings. The client said, “It’s as if we need to learn new etiquette for showing up to the meeting. In terms of meeting virtually, should the way we work together be any different than meeting in person?”

My answer was, “No. Not really.” Sure, the mechanics of meeting virtually are different, but the same rules of engagement should apply.

The challenge is that we’ve become so messy with our in-person meetings that we’ve forgotten about common courtesy and how to lead and participate in a way that gets business done.

It’s Not Just the Meeting Facilitator’s Responsibility

Most advice for effective business meetings is focused on meeting facilitators. We think it’s time that everyone be aware of how to run meetings AND attend them. We’ll even take it one step further and say that it ultimately lands on business leaders – all the way up the corporate ladder – to set enterprise-wide expectations.

If we look to our friends at The Emily Post Institute, THE authority on all things etiquette, they say that all manners rest on “fundamental principles: respect, consideration, and honesty.”

That’s a pretty good set of principles for leading and attending meetings. Building off of their definition of etiquette, here are Turpin’s recommendations for wrangling business meetings. We break it down into three groups: Attendees, Facilitators, and Business Leaders.

All Attendees
Show respect for your fellow attendees and for the work you’re there to accomplish:

  • Arrive on time and be prepared to participate fully.
  • Silence your devices and put them down. Seriously. Just. Do. It.
  • Listen intently… always.
  • Be courteous and helpful.
  • Speak up when appropriate to do so, and don’t be the one who talks just for talking’s sake.
  • Take notes. You’re busy and forgetful. You might need notes later, and even if you don’t, the act of writing them down helps keep you engaged.
  • Avoid sidebars that distract from the meeting’s intention.

Meeting Leaders and Facilitators
Create the conditions for a fruitful conversation and for decision-making:

  • Prepare an agenda and use it as your map for the conversation.
  • Greet meeting attendees as they enter the room (or log in virtually).
  • Encourage attendees’ participation without losing sight of the group and the goals of the meeting.
  • Keep an eye on the clock, and do not run over unless the situation REALLY warrants it.
  • Keep an ongoing list of decisions and assign tasks with dates as you go along. Be sure to communicate these afterward and set expectations for completion.

Business Managers and Leaders
Model effective meeting behavior yourself and set expectations enterprise-wide, or at least with your team:

  • If you’re lucky to start from scratch, set expectations early.
  • If you’re inheriting a dysfunctional meeting culture, try your best to level-set by setting expectations early and often.
  • Have the team create a meeting rule book and use it when you have to course correct.
  • Place value on well-run meetings.
  • Place value on respectful meeting behaviors.

The Time is Now

Meetings don’t have to suck, and improving them requires the active and thoughtful participation of all attendees.

As a leader, it starts with you. Your business needs you. What are you going to do to breathe new life into your team’s meetings?

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Written by Greg Owen-Boger

Greg Owen-Boger has been with Turpin Communication since 1995, first as a cameraman, then instructor, account manager, and now vice president. Schooled in management and the performing arts, Greg brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to the organization. Greg is one of Turpin’s facilitators and coaches. When he’s not with clients, he manages the day-to-day operations of the company. Greg is an active member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and was the 2015 President of ATD, Chicagoland Chapter. He is a popular speaker, frequent blogger, and the co-author of the book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined. His latest book, also co-authored by Dale Ludwig, launched in 2017 and is entitled Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.