Who Stole Our Meeting?
by Merrick Rosenberg
people know what makes a good
meeting, yet so many meetings are
unproductive. So if we understand that efficient and effective meetings
require preparing and sticking to agendas, starting and ending on time,
and keeping minutes, why do meetings go awry?
The answer goes beyond the technical aspects of running meetings. To
understand what turns potentially productive time in wasted hours, we
must consider the people who run and attend meetings.
In The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Terrence Deal and Allan
Kennedy noted, "The form of the meeting is simply a reflection of the
culture." Quite simply, people power meetings. And when those people
work in a culture of caring, commitment, and cooperation, meetings will
be productive, perhaps even regardless of whether or not you have an
agenda and start on time.
The Emotionally Intelligent
It is said that meetings are often events where minutes are kept, but
hours are lost. However, productive meetings are attended and led by
individuals with high levels of emotional intelligence. These
individuals focus on providing a positive contribution and are aware
when others are tuning in or out to meeting content. Emotionally
intelligent individuals are rarely disruptive and know how to deal with
those who are. They have highly developed communication and listening
skills and know how to respectfully raise concerns. They effectively
manage their emotions and stay calm when the conversation gets heated.
Paul Rice of TimeSource asked people to identify what "bothered them a
lot" about meetings. He found the following:
% bothered a lot
|People drifting off
People not listening
|Length of time taken
Note how many of the above
behaviors relate to emotional intelligence. While an agenda and a strong
leader can help to keep a meeting on track, if the participants have lower
levels of emotional awareness and poor communication skills, the meeting is
doomed from the start.
In my experience in conducting team surveys in countless organizations,
questions about team meetings are consistently among the lowest rated items.
I have found that in most meetings, if twelve people are in attendance, the
same four people will always speak, regardless of the content. Four people
will rarely if ever speak. And the remaining four will speak only if they
feel they have something valuable to contribute. This imbalance of
participation means that a group is not capitalizing on the input of all of
its members. Emotionally intelligent groups ensure that everyone plays a
role in making the meeting effective.
Participants can negatively impact meetings in a variety of ways. Here's how
to deal with some of the more difficult meeting attendees:
them what they would do if they had to make the decision.
calm, don't let them monopolize the meeting.
Acknowledge their humor, then politely ask them to stay focused and
Validate the discomfort of dealing with difficult issues.
them direct questions about the topic at-hand.
direct questions to others, instead of open-ended questions to the
Talk to them after the meeting and convey that they must attend the
to them after the meeting and discuss the message that their body
Check back with the originator to ensure proper interpretation.
Acknowledge their insight and ask for other perspectives.
on time, let them catch up.
Pass their questions to the group and let the group respond.
Immediately ask them to share their thoughts with the group.
Pleader: Focus the group on finding a solution that benefits
them for the logic behind their opinions.
Tactfully ask them to present their bottom-line idea or opinion.
a question to them.
The Bottom Line
Every action we take (or don't take) has a cost. And while we can spend
three things in life: time, money and energy... meetings cost all three.
By developing the skills that create emotionally intelligent employees,
organizations invest in their people in way that will yield the highest
Leading Engaging Meetings